AMHERST, Mass. (A.W.)—Novelist Chris Bohjalian was one of six recipients of Amherst College’s honorary doctoral degrees during the 2016 commencement, the 195th in the school’s history, on May 22. Bohjalian, who graduated from Amherst College in 1982, became the recipient of the Doctor of Humane Letters. A day earlier, Bohjalian addressed Amherst students in a speech titled, “The Genocide and the Love Story: Fiction as Activism,” discussing the Armenian Genocide, his novel The Sandcastle Girls, and his personal path to activism.
“There are a variety of reasons why I wound up a novelist, but a very big one is Amherst College,” Bohjalian told the Armenian Weekly. “I will always be deeply grateful to the faculty there for encouraging me to read and to write — and to the values the college instilled in me: critical thinking, compassion, and the confidence that the world is a better place when we are fearless, not fearful.”
Bohjalian is the author of 18 books. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Since graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Amherst, Bohjalian’s novels have regularly appeared on the New York Times best-seller list. Three of his novels were turned into movies. Currently, filmmaker Eric Nazarian is working on the film adaptation of The Sandcastle Girls. Bohjalian’s novels have addressed issues such as midwifery, homelessness, genocide, and, human trafficking.
The Washington Post, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage and Salon have named Bohjalian’s works Best Books of theYear. The Sandcastle Girls—his 2012 work of historical fiction about the Armenian Genocide—won, among other awards, the Armenian National Committee of America’s Freedom Award and Arts and Letters Award and Russia’s Soglasie (Concord) Award. The Night Strangers earned him a 2012 New England Society Book Award, and he won a New England Book Award for his entire body of work in 2002. Bohjalian was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio and saw his number-one New York Times best-seller Midwives selected for Oprah’s Book Club.
Bohjalian is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences and has written for numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest , The Boston Globe Magazine, and the Armenian Weekly. Bohjalian was a weekly columnist for Vermont’s Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.
Five others received honorary degrees during the commencement: Endowment for International Peace president William Burns, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ebola response manager Inger Damon (Amherst class of ’84), astronomer and astrophysicist Sandra Faber, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History director Kirk Johnson (Amherst class of ’82), and renowned sociologist and educator Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West