ROOT RIVER RUN by David Kherdian


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Kherdian chronicled his mother's childhood and marriage, her path from Turkey to Wisconsin, in A Road from Home (1979) and Finding Home (1981). Here, in an undramatic but evocative series of vignettes, he recalls his own childhood and adolescence in Racine, 1935-1947. Veran, the mother, now retreats into the background, while father Mike becomes a central figure: helping David to catch his first perch; embarrassing him with his broken English; bargaining over the price of a grand red Schwinn; and yearning to work as a chef--but limited to part-time short-order cooking because of his English-language illiteracy. David is also attached to his joyous Uncle Jack, who rhapsodizes about the Armenian ""soul""--only to drift away from the family after marrying Aunt Blanche, an unpleasant surprise for possessive little David. And the sense of growing-up-Armenian is also vivid in the schoolyard: David's friends Garabed, Khatchik, and Esahag decide to choose American names (Chuck, Harry, and ""Ees""); a fourthgrade teacher nicknamed ""Old Kidney Beans"" seems to discriminate against Armenian kids--leading to one powerful moment of confrontation between Kidney Bean and a magisterial Armenian mother. Otherwise, however, David's youth has the familiar highlights of the place and time: the glories of radio-listening; the fear and excitement of a part-time shoeshine career, venturing even into Armenian coffee houses; first conquests in hunting, dancing, and backseat sex. (""I kept thinking of Alice and wondering who she was and why she had taken all of us on. . . I felt cheated, but I still wasn't sure what I had been cheated of."") Gentle, understated, plainspoken nuggets of recollection--with more appeal for nostalgic adult readers, perhaps, than for a general YA audience.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1984
Publisher: Carolrhoda