by William Saroyan
A delightful book of short stories based on the author's childhood, that tell of his boyish exploits and adventures among a large Armenian immigrant family living in small-town southern California. Each story focuses on a certain event or person, but they all have a common thread of family and community, of the boy's troublemaking and what he learns from his relatives about life and the larger world. In one chapter, Aram and his cousin borrow a neighbor's horse (without asking permission) and ride around fantasizing great adventures. In another, he helps his uncle make plans (largely unrealistic) to turn part of the desert into an orchard of pomegranate trees. Aram watches his family members bicker, argue and support each other. He listens in on their discussions about religion, and gets exposed to people of many different backgrounds- making friends with Native Americans, meeting immigrants from other countries (one chapter is about an Arab man who stays for dinner, subjected to Aram's endless questions) and mixing with traveling circus people. In a way, Aram's character reminds me a lot of Tom Sawyer, and like Twain's stories, often had me laughing out loud. My Name Is Aram is a fun and thoughtful portrait of American life, seen through the eyes of the boy of an immigrant family, with a mixture of culture, humor and outright joy of life.
Granted, all this is based on my fond memories of the book, as I don't have a copy in front of me. I used to own one, picked up at a rummage sale somewhere, but sadly it got left behind in our last move (several years past).
Rating: 3/5 ........ 391 pages, 1983
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