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Author Archive: "Chris Bohjalian"

The Red Velvet Knickers that Helped Frame a Novel

When I was five years old, I was so fat that my mother bought all my pants at a store called "The Husky Boys' Shop," and still my pants were cuffed almost to my knees. She would dress me up in red velvet knickers and a white turtleneck shirt, and then parade me before her in-laws — as well as assorted aunts and uncles and cousins — to sing "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am." The song, a 1965 Herman's Hermits hit, is a bauble that somehow manages to be at once utterly forgettable and weirdly memorable. ("Everyone was an En-er-e! En-er-e!")

Yup. A fat kid in red velvet knickers singing Herman's Hermits with a bad British accent. How is it that no one ever beat me up?

But here is the most interesting part of the memory. My mother was Swedish. My father was Armenian. And where precisely was I singing "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am"? In my Armenian grandparents' living room, in a home so exotic by the standards of a New York City suburb in the 1960s that my mother christened the house "the Ottoman ...

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