FIRST FRENCH KISS by Adam Bagdasarian


and Other Traumas
Age Range: 12 & up
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An autobiographical short-story collection from Bagdasarian (Forgotten Fire, 2000) chronicles his childhood and adolescence. Astute and impressionistic, this collection is arranged not chronologically, but in units of remembrance, each section beginning with a brief introduction that gives the reader a sense of the coming portion’s texture and concerns. The overall tone is one of wise humor, and many of the stories, such as “first french kiss,” a comic exploration of expectation and reality, and “going steady,” in which the protagonist commits to a girl, “who though lovely, was looking for someone to love much as a boa constrictor looks for a small pig or owl to swallow,” are quite funny. Others, such as “my tutor,” about an elderly teacher who can no longer remember geometry, or “karate,” in which a fantasy bubble of increasing physical prowess is unwittingly popped by the protagonist’s older brother, are tender and poignant, which is not to say that the author’s droll voice was silent. Central to Bagdasarian’s concerns as a youngster was his father’s opinion of him. He ends with a reminiscence about his father chastising him for not painting the underside of a water pump and his realization that if his father had been “the kind of man who . . . allowed himself the luxury of enjoying the company of his sons, the sight and smell of his vineyard, and three-quarters of a water pump, I would never have finished this book.” Perhaps other sons dealing with critical fathers can take heart in that message. (Short stories. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-32338-0
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002