WORCESTER, WHITINSVILLE, Mass.—More than 75 friends, family members and fans from the Armenian and Worcester communities gathered to celebrate the release of Who she left behind, the first novel by Victoria Atamian Waterman. The event, held at the Worcester Historical Museum, was hosted by Valerie, Steve Loring and Judy King, renowned philanthropists and dear friends of the author.
To kick off the event, King introduced her sister, Val Loring, a strong supporter of causes that empower Worcester women and girls. It was through their shared commitment to these causes that they crossed paths and formed a close friendship with Victoria and her husband, Jim Waterman. Loring delivered a moving and moving introduction, highlighting how the motto of a magnet she left behind in Massachusetts when she moved to Maine aptly describes how Waterman seized opportunities and pursued her passions: “Carpe Diem – Seize the day!
The program took the form of a fireside chat, ably guided by the author’s longtime friend and colleague, Alicia O’Connell Rogers, who is a children’s librarian at the Worcester Public Library. Their engaging conversation began with Rogers’ investigation into the book’s themes and depiction of family. Waterman explained that the book’s prologue and epilogue are set in present-day North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island, while the intervening pages vividly recount his family’s journey of survival during the 1915 Armenian Genocide and their subsequent move to Massachusetts and Rhode Island to build a new life.
Waterman then shared that his favorite part of the book is in the very first chapter. She recounted how, as children, she and her cousins hatched plans to follow their grandmothers’ instructions to discover treasures they had buried under a tree in Gurin, Armenia, believing that ‘They would come back one day. Waterman pointed out that burying gold and small valuables was a common practice among many Armenian families facing deportation in 1915, but that her great-aunts’ poignant treasures were the dolls they had hidden under the tree. A collective “aww” was heard in the room, and the author went on to explain his deep-rooted intention to commemorate this touching memory. Throughout the book, she weaves a recurring theme of dolls and their making, creating a meaningful thread that runs through the heart of the story.
The conversation then explored the important connection between the Worcester Historical Museum and the vital role Worcester played in Armenian history. Waterman explained how Worcester was home to the first Armenian church in the Western Hemisphere. She also highlighted the invaluable documents held in the museum’s library, which are often difficult to locate elsewhere.
Waterman spoke about his commitment to respectfully representing the historical context that supports the fictional characters in his novel. To achieve this, she conducted extensive research, drawing on a wide range of scientific books and resources. These included memoirs, history books, historical fiction, first-hand accounts, oral histories and much more. She shared an example of her diligent efforts, noting her desire to depict a fictional friendship between her aunt Vicky and Alice Stone Blackwell, a renowned feminist and humanitarian who brilliantly translated Armenian poems. This translation was of immense importance and had close links to Worcester, as it played a central role in raising funds for Armenian causes. Notably, Blackwell was the daughter of Lucy Stone, a prominent reformer and women’s rights advocate, who spoke at the first National Woman’s Rights Convention held in Worcester in 1850. Stone’s portrait adorns the walls of the Historic Mechanics Hall in the city. Unfortunately, Aunt Vicky and Blackwell were not in Worcester during the same decade and their fictional friendship ended there.
Waterman then explained how she infused her personal experiences from her career in girls’ and women’s leadership into her writing. At the beginning of her writing journey, she struggled with uncertainty about the storyline and the message she wanted to convey. However, as she searched for stories and narratives that demanded recognition, she experienced defining moments that had a profound impact on her. She discovered a disheartening truth: more than 70 percent of historical accounts are written by men and focus primarily on male perspectives, leaving a significant gap in our understanding of history. She said it became clear she had a commitment to fulfill: to tell a story that would honor voices that had been neglected for too long. It was essential that she portrayed the women’s stories as strong, resilient individuals rather than helpless victims.
This sense of purpose became the driving force behind her writing and led her to become a student of Karen Jeppe and the Aleppo Relief House, whose extraordinary heroism she incorporated into her story. Waterman holds Jeppe in the highest regard, describing her as a mission-driven leader who used her business acumen and humanitarian spirit to rescue Armenian women trapped in horrific circumstances and provide them with the skills to become self-sufficient.
The conversation would have been incomplete without connecting historical events in history with current headlines. Waterman’s tone turned somber as she discussed recent developments, particularly the fall of Artsakh, which unfolded in a matter of weeks while the world watched silently. Around 120,000 people have been forcibly displaced by Azerbaijan following a 10-month blockade that prevented food and medical supplies from reaching those who are severely malnourished and in desperate need. She expressed frustration that this story had gone largely unnoticed in the news. She urged the audience to remain aware of the current humanitarian crisis affecting Armenians around the world and not simply scroll through these mentions in their news feeds. Victoria highlighted the reality of generational trauma and its lasting impact on people, saying: “Your Armenian friends are not doing well. »
The author also highlighted the recent events of the past week in which terrorist groups, such as Hamas, invaded Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of thousands of lives, including barbaric acts against the Jewish and Palestinian communities.
As the session drew to a close, a lively question-and-answer session took place, during which further remarkable findings from Waterman’s research were revealed. Before concluding, Rogers asked a crucial question: how might the audience contribute to the novel’s success? According to Victoria’s editor, Press History, the first 30 days after the book’s release are essential to its success. To support her goal, she encouraged the public to help her garner 50 favorable reviews on platforms like Amazon And Good reads by November 16. These examinations do not need to be in-depth; even a simple 5 star rating and a few positive comments would be greatly appreciated if readers found the book deserving.
Waterman also asked people to spread the word among their friends and networks and to consider inviting her to participate in group meetings, book clubs, speaking engagements and other events. She emphasized that the book has much more to offer beyond its exploration of Armenian culture, and she welcomed the opportunities to share these diverse facets with a wider audience.
What does the author’s literary journey have in store for us? She is already hard at work on her second book, which explores her grandfather’s incredible survival story and recounts his upbringing in a Greek orphanage and the miraculous reunion with his father and cousin in Providence, Rhode Island.
On a lighter note, for those with connections in the film industry, Waterman wants to say in a nutshell that she envisions her and her husband being played by Amal and George Clooney, although her husband, humorously , leans more towards Danny DeVito’s idea.
Guests enjoyed an elegant evening with festive spirits and Middle Eastern-inspired hors d’oeuvres artfully served by Restoration struck. Eager readers lined up to buy books from TidePool Bookstore and have them personally signed by the author. Special thanks for capturing past moments Kenneth Martin for photos and Craig Martin for videography.
The congregation of Whitinsville’s Armenian Church, St. Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church, gathered on the first Sunday of the book’s release to participate in the book blessing service. The Rev. Mikael Der Kosrofian and deacons Raffi Samkiranian and Jeff Kalousdian presided over the service with the tradition of pouring Armenian red wine over the pages of the book while praying: “Lord God, Omnipotent and Almighty, giver of all goodness and prosperity, you are a forgiving Lord, and we turn to you for strength. Guide Victoria to continue being an example for women of all ages. Bless this book, Lord, the one she left behind, and inspire those who read the untold stories of courageous and resilient women who became pillars of the communities rebuilt after the Armenian genocide. Lord Jesus, from the abundance of your mercy, enrich Victoria and save her. Inspire her to write new works. Strengthened by your blessings, may we be ever grateful to you and bless you with endless joy, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
November 12, RI – Providence, by AHARI Armenian Historical Assoc. of RI
November 13, RI – North Smithfield Public Library
November 15, MA – TidePool Bookstore, Worcester
November 18, MA – Tatnuck Bookstore, Westborough
December 9, RI – Warwick Public Library
December 12, MA – Watertown Public Library and Armenian Museum of America
Local readers can obtain a copy of Who she left behind has TidePool Bookstore327 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA, and Tatnuck Booksellers, Westborough Shopping Center, 18 Lyman Street, Westborough, MA. Or buy a book online and contact Waterman on its website with personalization and postal address. The author will mail you a personalized bookplate to insert into the cover. Join the subscriber list and enter to win a free signed book.