Seta Terzian wants her name to come up in a Google search. She wants to leave something here on Earth when she dies in addition to her children and grandchildren. Most important, she doesn’t want 10 years of writing out her life story as an Armenian girl living in Egypt to end up in the “rubbish.”
The 88-year-old Dedham resident just published her first, and what she says is her last, novel, “Two Girls from Heliopolis.”
She said the book is based mostly on her life, with a few products of her imagination worked in. She wanted to share Egypt’s history and culture, but also her journey to the United States at age 26.
“The whole book is sort of half and half -- half what really happened, half my fantasies of what might have happened,” Terzian said. “I’ve always thought that I’d lived an interesting life though and writing a book gives you a kind of immortality.”
The story follows the lives of two girls from Heliopolis, a small suburb of Cairo, and hits on all aspects of life - love, struggle, cultural and political conflict, the desire for acceptance, but mostly enduring friendship.
The main character is Eugenie, Terzian’s name on her passport and American documents. Eugenie travels to the United States after her father accepts a job in New Jersey, similar to Terzian’s life in the Boston area, where she spent many years working for the Westwood School Department.
Terzian said she began writing the book as a biography. However, she quickly found it was more fun, and provided a better story, when she brought in “the fantasies” -- love affairs, travel to exotic places, and drama.
“Writing those fantasies was where my experience has helped, especially for the traveling parts,” Terzian said explaining that much of the travels described in the book, she actually took.
She had her family read the book, and after a few years of passing it along to children and grandchildren for reviews and edits, she was ready to publish.
With a small smile Terzian explained that she sent out letter after letter to publishers only to receive rejections in return. Eventually, she found out about Amazon’s self-publishing program, Create Space, and after some help from her son-in-law with the formatting, she was holding the first copy in her hand.
It’s been two weeks since she received the book and she’s happy, but she’s still humble and a little shy about her accomplishment.
“I worked so hard for so long on it that now I’m a little tired,' she said, "but mostly, I’m really proud of my book.”