Raffi Joe Wartanian told an amazing story of his family by pointing out their interesting family name. His immigrant father Ghevont Vartanian, who left his hometown, Beirut, in 1974, thought adopting an American name was a prudent measure to avoid mispronunciations. To his son it felt like admitting defeat.
Raffi Joe describes how he cringed whenever his father called himself George. He wanted him to declare his name rather than defer to its otherness. He wanted him to teach people how to pronounce his name and appreciate its Armenian origins. History echoed within his father’s name: Ghevont is a canonized orator; Vartan, an honored warrior. Both served as Armenian leaders in the fifth-century Battle of Avarayr. But the name of George silenced that history.