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My Name is Aram – Review

My Name is Aram by William Saroyan

Age: 8th – Adult

My Name is Aram is a semi-fictional account of William Saroyan’s life from 1915 to 1925 in Fresno, California, told in fourteen short chapters, each discussing a different event or experience. Aram Garoghlanian is a curious young boy, and his curiosity often leads him straight to trouble. We are introduced to his Armenian family, his friends and those that live in the same small-town.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n48/n243862.jpgThe stories are short, simple and each one carries a special message or lesson learned by Aram. His book teaches the simple morals of understanding, not stealing, loyalty and the joys of learning. Aram is an adorable boy, with a mind full of questions and a routine of seeking out new experiences and facing the consequences. I want to compare Saroyan’s work to Steinbeck. As contemporaries in poverty stricken farmlands in California, they both have a similar pool of experiences to share. While both write about small town life of the immigrant worker, Saroyan’s work is more upbeat than Steinbeck’s because Sarayan can make fun of himself in his work.

Saroyan touches upon many issues within each of his stories. He addresses religion in the story of the two boys paid to sing in a Presbyterian Choir even though they are Catholic.  He discusses friendship in nearly all of his chapters, but the most powerful chapter is the final one, “The Poor and Burning Arab” where Aram learns about the value of words, and when silence is sometimes more appropriate than wasted words. He discusses compassion and understanding in the chapter “The Three Swimmers and the Educated Grocer”, which incidentally has my favorite line in the book.

Well, I’ll be harrowed, cultivated, pruned, gathered into a pile, burned, picked off a tree, and let me see, what else? Thrown into a box, cut off a vine and eaten grape by grape by a girl in her teens. (The Three Swimmers and the Educated Grocer)

A short book, this is a quick and fun read, but full of insight and humor into the simple activities in our daily lives.

My Name is Aram
by William Saroyan
Dell Publishing, 1937
156 pages

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Find this book at your local library