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ASP Lecture | Bearing Witness Through Art

Monday, September 14, 2015
12:00 AM
Multipurpose room, U-M Museum of Art
525 South State Street

While history must consider the masses, often analyzing the facts in terms of group identity, be it by race, gender, class or otherwise; literature is by necessity about the individual. The ideal historian must work to achieve objectivity and approach all the facts with impartiality: the storyteller is, in contrast, devoted to the subjective view of his or her characters. I’d like to examine the ways in which socially engaged fiction disseminates historical truths and responds to the organized and conscious erasure of the past. What is the role of fiction for the witness and for the denier? What role does historical accuracy and research play in the writing of historical fiction? And what role does fiction play in the acceptance and dissemination of contested historical events?

Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian’s debut novel, was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, and the Glimmer Train Best New Writers Award. Her writing was an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Editors’ Pick, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for spring 2015. Recently Ohanesian was awarded the Minas and Kohar Tölölyan Prize in Contemporary Literature from The Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of Eastern United States. Her book, Orhan’s Inheritance, has been long listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan Award for first novel prize. An international bestseller, it is has been translated into ten languages. Ohanesian, a descendant of genocide survivors, lives and writes in Orange County, California, with her husband and two young sons. Her website is

Photo credit: Raffi Hadidian