John Young's Book Tour!

I'd love to be at any of these eleven events--but especially at the one in Washington DC, hosted by a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist.

As a former English teacher, John Young loves talking about literature, especially his own. To have him visit your book group, high school or college class, to talk about writing or When the Coin is in the Air, please leave a request in the Contact area.

Wyoming, OH | 8/22/2019 | 6:30pm

Wyoming Community Coffee, 434 Springfield Pike 

This public event kicks off John’s reading series. He will read from and discuss When the Coin is in the Air.


Cincinnati, OH | 9/5/2019 

Private Event

This private reading and book party will be held at the home of John’s good friends Rich and Barb Ruddy. The Ruddys are strong supporters of the arts—both visual and literary.

Boston, MA | 9/15/2019  |  3:00-4:30

Tres Gatos Bookstore, 470 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston

John will read and discuss his novel in this cool and comfortable bookstore with a nice restaurant attached. Come for a reading, stay for dinner.

Cincinnati, OH | 10/26/2019  |  10:00am – 4:00pm

Books by the Banks: Cincinnati Regional Book Festival, Duke Energy Convention Center

Join John at the Cincinnati Regional Book Festival! For more details, visit their website. 

 Washington, DC | TBD 

Private Event

This reading and book party is at the home of John’s good friends Susan Headden and Doug Richardson. Both are supporters of literature and editorial writing (Susan won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting).

Oxford, OH | TBD 

Books & Brews, 107 E. Church Street

This bookstore/coffee shop/pub is a great concept and a fun place to hang out. John will read and discuss When the Coin is in the Air, much of which was written in a cabin at nearby Hueston Woods State Park.

Indianapolis, IN | 8/31/2019 | 6:00pm

Indy Reads Bookstore, 911 Massachusetts Ave.

This beautiful downtown bookstore has a steady flow of writers from all over. The featured writer is John Young, reading and discussing When the Coin is in the Air.

Falmouth, MA | 9/14/2019 | 2:00pm

Falmouth Public Library, 300 Main St.

Falmouth Public Library—This public reading will be on Saturday from 2:00 to 3:30. John will be reading and discussing writing with Jean Stone, author of 20 novels. This reading will be broadcasted by FCTV.

Beverly, MA | 9/18/2019 | 7:00pm 

Beverly Public Library, 32 Essex St.

This is a sweet return to John’s second home. He and his wife lived in Beverly for 20 years, and both of their children were born there. It’s a lovely community on Boston’s North Shore.

Chicago, IL | 10/5/2019  |  6:00pm

The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave.

At this public reading, John will follow Lincolin Park’s Applefest. Shout out to John’s old high school theater friend Steve Spencer for his help.

Cincinnati, OH | 11/19/2019  | 7:00pm

Joseph-Beth, 2692 Madison Rd.

At this public reading in November, John will be reading from his book at Joseph-Beth Book Sellers.

Advance Reviews for John Young's WHEN THE COIN IS IN THE AIR

“I appreciated reading this book because it took me deeply into Jason’s personal history and psychology. …I found much there that was relatable, simply because it was deeply human. I’m grateful John Young wrote this book. When the Coin is in the Air is a novel that will stay with you, remind you of a version of the Midwest that might be fading, and bring to mind key pivotal moments in your own life, moments that led you to flip a coin to decide which road to take—and to determine which way you really wanted to go.”

See full review.

Kelly Blewett

NPR affiliate WVXU


“It is a rare coming-of-age-novel that strikes an elegiac tone—the trembling anticipation of youth, a decidedly modern hero’s journey, in combination with a grief-struck plunge into conscience—but John Young pulls it off. This novel, like its main character, makes its way from early promise to settled accomplishment, from a staggering opening to a quiet self-acceptance that seems wholly earned—and leaves a reader grateful.”

James Carroll

National Book Award Winner and author of The Cloister


“An abusive father keeps his son—and the reader—in suspense in When the Coin is in the Air, a well-told coming -of age tale.”

Dan Wakefield

author of Going All The Way and New York in the Fifties


When the Coin is in the Air follows Jason Blake from early promise to settled accomplishment, with dramatic adventures, tough decisions and heart-stopping risks along the way. “It is fiction, John explains, “but the bones came from my life.”

The story is sometimes sweet, often poignant, and frequently funny. You find yourself rooting for Jason, hoping his choices will work out. The heroes and villains are all satisfyingly complex and multi-dimensional.

See full review.

Cynthia Smith

Wyoming Living Magazine


“I loved John Young’s wise and moving novel. A young man is forced to navigate the difficult choices of early adulthood while protecting his own life and his mother’s from a violent, abusive father. Reminiscent of the novels of Pat Conroy, When the Coin is in the Air explores the complexities of the pull between duty and self-determination, tempered by love.”

Susan Neville

author of Invention of Flight and The House of Blue Lights


When the Coin is in the Air is a riveting story of adversity, destruction and transcendence. John Young weaves a gritty but ultimately uplifting tale, sure to speak to anyone who has wrestled with demons. From the start, Young’s debut novel will grab you, and it won’t let you go.”

Don Tassone

author of Drive

ILLUMINATE interviews Jerry Burger

Historic photo of Armenian woman kneeling in a battllefield with two daughters.

The Scars of Generational Trauma

How long is the shadow of genocide? It’s the question Jerry Burger grapples with in his new novel, The Shadows of 1915 (Golden Antelope Press, 2019), referring to the Armenian Genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians were systemically murdered by the Turkish rulers in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. The Emeritus professor, who retired from SCU’s Department of Psychology Department last April after 34 years, sets his story a generation after the genocide, in 1953, in his hometown of Fresno, California. A large population of the Armenian diaspora began settling there before World War I and after the genocide due to Fresno’s bountiful farmland.  

The story centers on the Saropian family: Matriach Tarvez, who survived the genocide but whose infant daughter was killed during a death march, and her now-adult American-born sons. A hostile encounter between the sons and several Turkish college students forces the characters to choose between family loyalty and what’s morally, and legally, right.

Growing up in Fresno, Burger says he was struck by how stories of the atrocities committed during the 1915 genocide were central to the Armenian-American community’s story. Despite being born well after the events, the offspring of survivors were (and continue to be) forced to contend with the trauma endured by their ancestors. Here, Burger reflects on his experience writing about that inherited trauma.

Why did you focus on the generation after genocide?
While growing up in Fresno and interacting with Armenian friends and their families, I was struck by two things: First, every family had a story about loved ones lost in the genocide, and these stories were an important part of their community identity; second, every member of the Armenian community I encountered had strong feelings about Turks. Hate might be the appropriate word. Certainly there was anger. At some point it occurred to me that this situation would provide an excellent opportunity to explore in fiction a number of concepts that interest me—family, community, culture, overcoming trauma, and justice. Questions about justice are raised throughout the book. Most importantly, how can members of the Armenian community reach a sense of justice when the genocide perpetrators not only go unpunished but deny that the genocide happened? As one of my characters says, “Hate is not a solution. But neither is forgetting.”

Much of the plot deals with Tarvez’s now-adult sons, Mihran and Arak, who are on diverging paths. Mihran is more future-thinking and embracing of the American way of life. Arak runs the family farm, upholds values from “the old country,” and harbors rage against the new Turkish immigrants in town. How did you plot this difference between first-generation brothers?
One reason I selected 1953 was that it was about the time that the tightly knit Armenian community concentrated in one area of Fresno called Armenian Town began the process of integrating into the larger Fresno community. There were many reasons for this, but key was a 1948 Supreme Court ruling outlawing what were known as restrictive covenants. As I explain in the book, before the ruling, clauses were included in real estate deeds that prevented Armenians from buying a house outside of Armenian Town. But the ruling also contributed to existing tensions within the Armenian community, pitting tradition against change. The desire to hold onto tradition and the old culture versus the need to become part of the new culture. It’s an issue faced by any group of people assimilating into the larger culture.

Your story deals with how the psychological fallout of genocide affects not just survivors but their offspring. In what ways do humans see inherited trauma play out in their lives? Are there parallels you can identify in today’s world?
I’m hesitant to draw parallels between the events in my novel and events in the news, although I certainly would like people who read my book to see some of these connections. However, I believe the novel should raise questions about the ongoing tensions between Armenians and Turks and, more generally, about reconciliation between groups that were once in conflict. I have a German surname, but I have never sensed any hatred from Jewish people because of it. Yet more than a century after the genocide, the Armenians’ dislike of Turks remains intense. Why? Certainly part of the answer is Turkey’s continuing denial of the genocide. In Germany today, it is against the law to deny the Nazi Holocaust. In Turkey today, it is against the law to refer to the 1915 events as genocide. Efforts by members of the United States Congress to simply acknowledge the Armenian genocide have been thwarted by Turkey’s threats to not allow access to military bases, air space, etc. if such an acknowledgement is made official. I imagine the pain and feelings of loss for Armenians is exacerbated by Turkey’s claim that the genocide never happened.

Why is the concept of justice such a motif in your story? Why is justice so central to humans, particularly if they themselves were not the direct victims of trauma?
Psychologists find that believing in a just world may be critical for our sense of well-being, at least in Western cultures. We know things are not always fair, but we need to believe that in general the world is a just place—that people get what they deserve and they deserve what they get. This is part of why people often have a difficult time overcoming trauma; that is, if these types of things just happen, then there’s nothing to keep them from happening again. This is also why injustice on such a grand scale as genocide is unacceptable. But your question touches on another theme I raise in the book, a notion sometimes referred to as "the sins of the father." I can understand why Armenians feel anger over the lack of justice related to the genocide—I feel it, even though I am not Armenian. But why turn that anger on the next generation of Turks? Are they to pay for the sins of their fathers? Is that justice?

In reading the book, I was struck by how some of the Armenian-American characters behaved towards other ethnic groups—e.g. wary of their men marrying non-Armenian women; mistreatment of migrant farm hands from Mexico. Psychologically speaking, where does this mistrust come from?
I have always been fascinated by the way people who have been the victims of prejudice and discrimination often express prejudice and discrimination against other groups. Many of the Armenian-Americans in the novel are guilty of this. For me, it’s one more aspect of the justice theme: Are these characters motivated by a sense of justice or are they simply looking out for their own people? And could one argue that looking out for your own community is a type of justice?


More articles by this author


By Kelly Blewett for NPR affiliate WVXU –


John Young’s novel coming-of-age novel follows Jason Blake from adolescence through adulthood. The title of the book, When the Coin is in the Air, is about how people make life decisions. A college professor advises Jason to choose between two good options by tossing a coin in the air. How he wants the coin to fall, once it is in the air, will reveal which route to take. The novel presents many of Jason’s “coin in the air” moments. He decides which teaching job to take. He decides whether to join his brother in business. He decides whether to remain in Indiana or to leave. And along the way, he comes to terms with a deep-seeded aggression and competitive nature that bubbles below his genial surface.

The story is told with a first-person perspective. There are few descriptions; instead, it’s more of a straightforward narration of one young person’s development and the various influences that shaped him. There is clarity about who the characters are, especially Jason’s nuclear family, which includes his charismatic and successful older brother, his abrasive father, and his artistic, quiet mother. As Jason tries to find his place in the family and the world, he finds pieces of each of his family members within himself.

The book is also a page-turner. I found myself grabbing it to read a few chapters here and there, laughing at the characterization of the Indiana Teacher’s Conferences during the nineties, nodding my head in recognition at the long hours Jason put into preparing lessons and grading papers. Maybe I should mention that I teach writing for a living? I also appreciated the vividness of certain details, some of which helped me better understand my own family.

My grandfather, like Jason’s father, was an auto-mechanic in Pennsylvania, and often would scour junkyards for parts from wrecks. I recounted some of the gruesome details about the way Jason described the wrecks to my father—for instance, shoes flung asunder in the violence of a crash—and my father just nodded knowingly. I also shared that the young Jason digs around the broken-down cars for green stamps. I didn’t know what they were. My parents laughed and told me they furnished their apartment in graduate school on green stamps.

In all, this novel provides an atmospheric look into a particular corner of the rural Midwest that will resonate with many Cincinnatians. It tells a story not only about one young man’s journey to adulthood, but also about how traditional values like achievement and loyalty play out in one family over time.

“I appreciated reading this book because it took me deeply into Jason’s personal history and psychology. …I found much there that was relatable, simply because it was deeply human. I’m grateful John Young wrote this book. When the Coin is in the Air is a novel that will stay with you, remind you of a version of the Midwest that might be fading, and bring to mind key pivotal moments in your own life, moments that led you to flip a coin to decide which road to take—and to determine which way you really wanted to go.”

The love/hate relationship that Jason has with both his father and his brother is inevitable, I think, because they are his deepest models for himself. These men attract and repel him. “Where would I be without my brother?” he wonders in the middle of the novel. He can’t even fathom the thought. I appreciated reading this book because it took me deeply into Jason’s personal history and psychology. While I don’t have a brother and wasn’t raised in rural Indiana, I found much there that was relatable, simply because it was deeply human. I’m grateful John Young wrote this book. When the Coin is in the Air is a novel that will stay with you, remind you of a version of the Midwest that might be fading, and bring to mind key pivotal moments in your own life, moments that led you to flip a coin to decide which road to take—and to determine which way you really wanted to go. More information on this title can be found on our website,

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