If you could come up with a list of five must-read books penned by Armenian-American authors, which works would you pick?
It’s a tough question, mainly because of the rich collection of stories written by first, second, and third generation Armenian-Americans. From compelling fiction to heartbreaking nonfiction, and humorous short stories to fine novels, the repository is full of passion, rage, pain, and the flicker of hope that comes with life after near destruction.
The following is an unranked, incomplete, and absolutely biased list of fiction and nonfiction I consider some of the best. Add your favorites to this list in the comment section below.
1) The Road From Home by David Kherdian
David Kherdian is the master of fictionalized biography and memoir. And in this Newbery Honor book, he tells the story of his mother, Veron Dumehjian, an Armenian girl from a well-off family forced to leave her home due to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The novel is heartbreaking, with bursts of love, hardship, and the bonds of family created during times of great calamity.
2) Black Dog of Fate by Peter Balakian
This book was written with rage. It starts off as a nonfiction memoir about an Armenian-American family and a young man’s transformation into adulthood. But later, historical documentation comes in with a kick and the conclusion is a forceful and passionate appeal. It’ll get your blood boiling.
3) My Name Is Aram by William Saroyan
There is a pomegranate orchard, a hero named Aram, and a zither-playing uncle Jorgi — among other amusing anecdotes. This collection of tales chronicles the various ventures of Aram Garoghlanian, a boy of Armenian descent growing up in Fresno, California. A classic, a must-read, a William Saroyan.
4) Thieves’ Market by A.I. Bezzerides
He was friends with William Faulkner and he refused to read William Saroyan. Bezzerides’ novel, Thieves’ Market, brings you into the dark world of truckers, wholesalers, and all others no one cared to talk about in the 1950s. Meet fascinating Nick Garcos and his world.
5) For the Grape Season by Harry Barba
Many say Harry Barba’s book reads like John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I happen to like it because there’s tons of grapes, secrets, miracles, and interracial love. Barba was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his book Round Trip to Byzantium — but it’s this story, albeit unlikely and serendipitous, that’s full of character.