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. . . /St. Gregory of Narek and “Narek” His Book of Prayers (In Armenian and English)

Fresno, CA: N.P., 1951. Good. 7¼" x 5". Stapled thin card wrappers. Pp. [26], 59. Good: wrappers heavily soiled and with a ballpoint scribble; moderate staining and dust soiling throughout with a few dogears and penciled owner notations. This is a book of prayers, printed in Armenian and English, written by a leader of the Armenian church and community in Fresno, California. It was published to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the birth of St. Gregory of Narek who was an Armenian poet, monk, and theologian and is venerated as a saint in the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches. Fresno, California, has historically been home to a significant population of Armenian Americans. The similar climate of the region was a large draw for Armenian immigrants, many of whom made their living in agriculture. Several sources agree that the influx began with an Armenian merchant, Hagop (known as Jacob) Seropian, who had first settled in Massachusetts but found the winters unagreeable. In 1881, Seropian moved to Fresno with his half-brothers, Kevork (known as George) and Hovahaness (known as John). The brothers eventually found success with their dried fruit and nut business, and spread glowing accounts of the San Joaquin Valley and Fresno County to members of Armenian communities in New England and -24- back in their home country. The numbers of Armenian settlers in the Fresno area grew steadily, largely following the Hamidian massacres in the mid-1890s, the Adana massacre of 1909, and the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire during WWI. The newcomers faced a number of prejudices due to their Middle Eastern appearance, language, and customs, and the communities banded together figuratively and physically. They formed their own benevolent and fraternal organizations, churches and newspapers, and even clustered in one part of the city of Fresno, which became known as "Armenian Town." The author of the book on offer, Krikor Sarafian, was born in Aintab, Turkey, in 1880. He came to the United States in 1910 and earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University's Divinity School. After graduate work in New York, he returned to Armenia to teach; there he was captured and condemned to death for his "Christian leadership connections" but managed to escape to Syria. In 1920, he came to Fresno to work for the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). He served as executive secretary of the western region of the AGBU from 1920 until he retired in 1953, and was instrumental in the organization of 26 new chapters in the region. A noted religious scholar, Sarafian also wrote several other books, edited the Fresno religious periodical Pharos, and contributed articles to various Armenian literary, religious, and cultural publications. He was awarded the Armenian church's highest honor, the Order of St. Gregory the Illuminator, First Degree, in 1959. OCLC shows a copy at 5 institutions. A celebratory Armenian tract, simultaneously documenting the Armenian American community of Fresno and highlighting the career of an important Armenian American religious scholar.