New Book: ‘Armenians of the Merrimack Valley’

By Breanna Edelstein

Title: Armenians of the Merrimack Valley
Release date: Feb. 8, 2016
Includes: 128 pages, 179 photos
Price: $21.99

HAVERHILL, Mass. (Haverhill Gazette)—When it comes to the written word, they are a dynamic duo of sorts.

Cover of Armenians of the Merrimack Valley

Tom Vartabedian, who spent 40 years as a Haverhill Gazette reporter and photographer, still writes a column for the newspaper in his retirement.

He is passionate about his family’s Armenian culture, especially the Armenian Genocide which happened a century ago.

  1. Philip Brown is a Haverhill High history teacher who is passionate about that subject, particularly the people and events that shaped Haverhill’s past.

In recent years, he has helped create two books that are popular with locals—one about Haverhill trivia and the other about Haverhill sports trivia.

Now, Vartabedian and Brown are preparing to release a new book that embraces their interests in local history and the Armenian culture and genocide.

Armenians of the Merrimack Valley, part of the “Images of America” series, was a year-long effort that combines Vartabedian’s proud Armenian ancestry and writing experience with Brown’s vast knowledge of history. Set to be released in February, the book also features more than 150 photos.

Several years ago, the two men met at Haverhill High School, where Brown teachers world history. Vartabedian was there giving an annual presentation on human rights and the often under-studied Armenian Genocide.

“The kids are curious and obviously disturbed by the information, but they appreciate it. It’s something they didn’t have any idea of,” Brown said of the genocide. “And when you connect these stories to real life people, it makes it a little bit more real.”

The book discusses the 1.5 million Armenian people killed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915. Another million Armenians were displaced and scattered. Many refugees eventually found their way to the Merrimack Valley and started families in Haverhill, Lawrence, and Lowell.

For Vartabedian, there’s an especially close connection to the horrific history.

His mother, Jennie, was the last genocide survivor to die in Haverhill. She passed three years ago. He dedicated the book, in part, to her.

“I really enjoy all of the projects that I do as a way to give something back to my profession and heritage,” he said.

At the time of Vartabedian’s Haverhill High visit, Brown was working toward his master’s degree in public history and searching for a topic to write a thesis paper on.

“I’ve lived in Haverhill my whole life and knew of Tom because of his work with the Gazette,” Brown said. “When he came to the school this year during the 100-year anniversary of the genocide, we talked about some different ideas and eventually started working on this book.”

Tom Vartabedian, left, and Haverhill High teacher E. Philip Brown show off the book they co-produced on Armenians in the Merrimack Valley. (Photo: Amy Sweeney/Haverhill Gazette Staff)

Brown went on to contact Arcadia Publishing, which set them up with a book deal.

“He saw a niche with the Armenian community, which is very extensive in the Merrimack Valley,” Vartabedian said of Brown. “He decided it would be a great topic for him to tackle. I got involved because I’m active in that community and we collaborated. This has been my livelihood all my life. My heritage is my real passion.”

As the two men prepare for the book release, they agree the lack of academic writing and general knowledge surrounding the major historic happening is concerning.

“I wondered why in my 50s I hadn’t read more about this,” Brown said of the genocide. “When you learn about it, it disturbs you very much.”

While researching, he realized that people he’d known for most of his life lost relatives in the genocide, which is covered in a single paragraph in thick history textbooks, he said.

Armenians of the Merrimack Valley is meant to change that.

“This is a book about the people who made the history in Haverhill,” Vartabedian said. “It’s about the people who settled here as immigrants, raised their families, and made this a proud city.”


This article originally appeared in the Haverhill Gazette on Jan. 7, with the title, “New Book Spotlights Valley Immigrants.”

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: New Book: ‘Armenians of the Merrimack Valley’

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