March 22, 1900
Shabin Karahisar, Ottoman Empire
|Died||March 10, 1986
Queens, New York, U.S.
Aram Haigaz (Armenian: Արամ Հայկազ - March 22, 1900 - March 10, 1986) was the pen name of Aram Chekenian, an American writer who was born in the town of Shabin Karahisar, Turkey, and survived the systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. He was a young boy when his birthplace was attacked, and his first book, The Fall of the Aerie, published in English translation in 1935, is often cited by scholars and historians for its eyewitness details. He wrote ten books in his lifetime, as well as articles and essays for Armenian newspapers and magazines.
Aram Haigaz’s home town was situated at the foot of a mountain in the northeastern area of present day Turkey. In the summer of 1915 when the military forces of the enemy were near, in what became known as the Shabin-Karahisar uprising, the entire Armenian population of 5,000 set fire to their homes and fields and climbed up the mountain to the remains of an old Roman fort at its peak. They took food and animals with them and fought for almost one month, until forced by famine to surrender. Of the more than 5,000 who climbed to the fort, only a handful survived. Aram Haigaz’s brothers, his father and other relatives were among those killed. He and his mother were sent on deportation, a forced march leading to the Syrian desert. Aram Haigaz survived by converting to Islam, which allowed him to live as a Muslim, with a Turkish master, until he escaped to freedom. His memoir of that time, Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan, describes his life as a shepherd and servant, and how he grew from boyhood to a young man among the Kurdish tribesmen and chieftains, when Turkey was still the Ottoman Empire.
After escaping to Istanbul in 1919, Aram Haigaz was reunited with an aunt; he spent some time in an orphanage run by American missionaries, and also went to school where literature was one of his subjects. Within two years, in 1921, he sailed for the United States. He worked as an apprentice photo-engraver at the New York newspaper, The Daily Mirror, and studied English at night, reading extensively the great world and American classics – from Kipling and Balzac to Poe. In 1922 he started writing for the Armenian publications and took a pen name because he feared the stigma of rejections, and at age 22, Aram Chekenian became Aram Haigaz.
When he died at age 85, Aram Haigaz had published ten books that were read by Armenians in many countries. Except for the autobiographical accounts of his early years, much of his output was in the form of humorous short stories and vignettes of contemporary life in the United States. His work was highly personal, and he wrote in a natural, conversational style about seemingly inconsequential events – what was in a sandwich, going to the wrong funeral, a stay in the hospital  his son's graduation. His stories did not dwell on the pain of the past, and he became one of the most popular Armenian writers of his time. He received several Armenian literary awards and tributes  and in1972, the Jubilee of his fifty years as a writer was marked with programs in cities in the United States, Canada and Lebanon.
He was married in Paris to a young Armenian woman whom he had met in school in Istanbul. He lived in Rego Park, New York, and had two children, a son and daughter. He died in New York, from complications of pneumonia, at age 85.
The Fall of the Aerie was reissued in 2010 to commemorate his 110th birthday tribute by Hamazkayin, the Armenian Educational and Cultural Society. In recent years, several new volumes of his work have been published in Armenia, the first in 2008 called Aram Haigaz, Letters; from 2010-2013, four other volumes of essays and articles called Forgotten Pages; and a collection of his short stories, A Living Tree, published in 2013.
Except for his first book, all the works of Aram Haigaz were written and published in Armenian. He did not say much about his writing, but he did say this: “I do not write to benefit anyone, not to teach anyone, or to preach or spread my beliefs… But my pride in being Armenian is always present in every line I write.”
- The Fall of the Aerie - 1935
- The Call of the Race, vol. I - 1949
- The Call of the Race, vol. II - 1954
- Shabin Karahisar and Its Heroic Struggle - 1957
- Four Worlds - 1962
- Hotel - 1967
- Yearning - 1971
- Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan - 1972
- Live, Children! - 1973
- Happiness - 1978
- Svajian, Stephen G. A Trip Through Historic Armenia, GreenHill Publishing Ltd., 1977 (Self Defense of Shabin Karahissar [sic] 456-463)
- ARMENIANS ARE SENT TO PERISH IN DESERT; Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate Whole Population - People of Karahissar Massacred, New York Times, August 18, 1915, page 5
- Hovannisian, Richard G. (Ed.), The Armenian genocide : history, politics, ethics / edited by Richard G. Hovannisian ; foreword [by] George Deukmejian, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1992, ISBN 0-7867-0996-0
- Short Story International vol 1 #12, October 1964 "In the Hospital" Aram Haigaz (129-144),
- Bardakjian, Kevork B., A Reference Guide to Modern Armenian Literature 1500-1920 With an Introductory History, Wayne State University Press, 2000 (Aram Haykaz, 239)
- Agop J. Hacikyan, coordinating editor ; Gabriel Basmajian, Edward S. Franchuk, Nourhan Ouzounian, The Heritage of Armenian Literature, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, c2000
- ALMA to Honor the Late Author Aram Haigaz, The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, September 17, 1994
- Armenian Library Honors Aram Haigaz, The Armenian Reporter International, September 10, 1994 (10)
- Aram Haigaz Honored Here At Jubilee Celebrations Kick-Off, The Armenian Reporter, New York November 16, 1972 (14, 16)
- Aram Haigaz Jubilee Marked in Los Angeles, The Armenian Observer December 20, 1972
- http://www.nytimes.com/1986/03/13/obituaries/aram-haigaz-chekenian-85-author-of-books-in-armenian.html Aram Haigaz Chekenian, 85, Author of Books in Armenian - NY Times Obituary - retrieved 1/21/2012
- http://www.armenianweekly.com/2011/02/09/hamazkayin-program/ Hamazkayin Program Marks 110th Anniversary of Aram Haigaz’s Birth - The Armenian Weekly - February 9th, 2010 - retrieved 1/21/2012
- Yearning - 1971, Preface