The Fear of Large and Small Nations

Nancy Agabian (USA)
Creative Writing Residency

Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher and literary organizer based in New York. She has recently formed a new novel titled ‘The Fear of Large and Small Nations’ to its general shape, but needed an artistic and critical environment attuned to the issues of social practice, and she found the creative and intellectual space – the proper lens – to view the book in order to further define it. Working at the ‘Art Commune’ International Residency Program (ACSL) helped Agabian to revisit her past as she tighten the plot, refine the inner journey of a character of the book, and craft the voices to make them more distinct. Agabian has also organized the series of workshops on feminist writing and an informal meeting on ‘queering traditions’ at the ‘Art Commune’ Residency cluster.

As a creative writer, Nancy Agabian uses personal stories of identity as a lens to analyze wider issues of society. Through humor, pathos, and experiments with form, she portrays the complexities of living in embattled communities, finding metaphors that illuminate the impact of injustice.

The novel ‘The Fear of Large and Small Nations’, sets a troubled personal relationship between the changing landscapes of post-Soviet Armenia and the U.S. under Bush and Obama. A character of the novel, Na, is a bisexual feminist Armenian American woman who travels to her distant homeland in order to ‘give back’ by writing about social justice. Once in the rigidly traditional country, she suffers an identity crisis when she is not seen as ethnically Armenian. She soon falls for Seyran, a rebellious young man who seems to value her for who she is. They eventually get married and move to New York, but their relationship crumbles apart.

Structurally, each chapter travels in time between Yerevan (2006-2007) and Queens (2009-2011) and is composed of blog posts, journal entries, short stories (told in the 3rd person), and reflective meta-writing, varying in voice to represent the narrator’s fragmented identity as she endures an abusive relationship. Set atop a web of traditional values, government corruption, and legacies of genocide and violence, the story thus explores the complex contradictions that exist between political ideals and personal liberation in countries large and small, powerful and vulnerable.