Far too many immigration stories begin with an escape from tragedy – everything from economic hardship to devastating wars. The Armenian American experience is tragically rooted in the Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1918, the systematic massacre of an estimated 1 to 2 million Armenians. A near-century later, the tragedy continues to fester with the Turkish government’s continued refusal to acknowledge that genocide occurred.
Among the surviving diaspora, California’s Central Valley proved to be an immigration destination for many families. Aris Janigian, a Fresno-born, second-generation Armenian American, introduced readers to such a family in his absorbing 2003 first novel, Bloodvine, about two half-brothers torn apart by jealousy and misunderstanding. In the ensuing rift, the younger brother relinquishes his inheritance – his claim to the family grape farm – to the elder, whose bittersweet victory results in far greater loss.
The brothers’ division looms large in Janigian’s sequel, Riverbig, which follows the separated life of younger brother Andy Demerjian, who is struggling to support his wife and two young sons at the novel’s opening. Denied access to his own land, he scrambles for odd jobs, weighed down by growing debt, with temporary relief found in alcoholic stupor. Two simultaneous farming opportunities save Andy from bankruptcy: A widow offers her land for lease, while a school acquaintance returns from the big city to propose that Andy manage a nearby land parcel. … [click here for more]
Tidbit: Okay, so here’s my two seconds of fame: Heyday Books, which published Riverbig, lists this blog at the top of their “Blogs We Like” links! Of course, that list is in alphabetical order, so I suppose it’s a good thing this blog name begins with “B,” huh? Also, if you scroll down a bit on the Heyday blog, the March 30, 2009 entry is all about the San Francisco Chronicle review and really nice comments about this blog. How wonderful is that?