The Making of the Panosian Biography

by   |  
Dr. Edward Panosian with author Chris Anderson sign the recently published biography, Panosian

From 4:30–6:30 p.m. February 14 in the Welcome Center lobby, BJU Alumni Relations will host a book signing with Chris Anderson and Dr. Ed Panosian, the author and subject of Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence.

As a BJU student in the ’90s, Anderson only knew one side of Panosian: iconic history teacher with a booming voice. Twenty years later, Anderson met Panosian’s private side: incredible product of providence. His discovery led to the writing of this stirring biography. Buy the book online and at the Bruins Shop.

The Seed of an Idea

In 2017, Anderson invited Panosian to portray historical accounts of the Reformation at the church near Atlanta where he serves as lead pastor. During their drive back to Greenville, Anderson asked Panosian about his family and the floodgates opened.

“I wish I had had a recorder,” says Anderson.

For the next two hours, Panosian told him of his family’s escape from the Armenian genocide and their lives in America. By the time they arrived at their destination, Anderson knew “somebody had to capture the story while [Panosian was] still living to tell it.” It didn’t take long for him to ask Panosian if he could capture his journey in a biography. Panosian agreed, and the yearlong process began.

A Different Process

Anderson is a self-proclaimed “word guy.” He has written beautiful hymns, a devotional series and a study on John 4. But, according to Anderson, writing his past projects was “basically like preaching.” He playfully says he can “turn any sermon into a publication.”

“If it rhymes it will be a hymn,” says Anderson, “if it doesn’t rhyme it will be a Gospel meditation.”

But this project was quite different. It had a storytelling angle that both unnerved and intrigued him. Panosian was a challenge, but Anderson was able to borrow aspects from his sermon writing as a guide. The gathering of information and presenting it in a logical and progressive manner were well-known to Anderson.

A Historic Pain

The foundation of the Panosian family story is built around the Armenian genocide between 1895 and 1915. Writing and researching the subject for six months was Anderson’s biggest emotional obstacle. He says maintaining his all-consuming job as a pastor while reading about the genocide was “a heavy process.”

Finding a balance in the book between the brutality of the history and readability was especially hard. Anderson wanted to accurately depict the pain the Armenians went through without shocking the reader too much. Thankfully, the providential work of God in the Panosians’ life helped level the tone of the story.

Thorough Research

Because there were some gaps from Panosian’s parents’ past that they could not fill, Anderson first approached the story with a fictional spin. But, after revising the first draft, it “became very clear that this is history.”

“As they read the book, people shouldn’t have to wonder if certain parts are embellishments,” Anderson said.

After scraping off all fictional aspects, he began a more thorough research process.

Anderson read several books and articles on World War I and the events the Armenian people experienced before and during this time. Throughout the process, he was recommended several pieces, but two impacted him the most. Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story—a memoir of the 1913–16 American ambassador to Turkey—served as an unbiased eye-witness account of the Armenian genocide. Peter Balakian’s The Burning Tigris offered rare documents and narratives of the genocide.

A Story of Providence

Though the process was difficult, the outcome is great. Anderson is glad to know that “the book signing and the entire book process introduces [Panosian] to a generation of students that doesn’t know him.” It also provided an inside scoop to those who thought they did already know Dr. Panosian.”

Books will be available for purchase at the Bruins Shop or individuals can bring their copy of the biography to be signed. The two-hour event preceding the evening Bible Conference session in Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium will be significant for Anderson because it will give people a chance to interact with the protagonist.

“It will be fun to be at the book signing,” says Anderson, “but this is about Ed Panosian.”