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William  Saroyan

William Saroyan: A Search for Identity

The United States Response to the Armenian Genocide


Alexandra  Bastajian

The United States responded to the genocide that the Armenians endured at the hands of the Turkish government in both positive and negative ways. Negatively, the United States government did not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide and postively, Americans expressed moral outrage, compassion, and generosity. Many small minority groups, which included Armenians, benefited from the Near East Relief, which was a foreign relief committee. Government-sponsored Liberty Bond drives also were earmarked for Armenian relief. However, the United States government valued political and economic strategies and tactics before any other goal. The United States policy of neutrality, and the importance of Turkey as an ally were vital political and economic reasons they did not support the Armenians. Political and economic goals, as well as the desire to comfort the Armenians, both played a crucial role in American policy.

One well-known American Armenian writer was William Saroyan. He struggled throughout his life to identify who he was and where he belonged. Achieving early and meteoric success at the very beginning of his career, he believed that this fame would define him; unfortunately, his success was as brief as it was spectacular and he spent the remainder of his life in a sad search to rediscover himself. Many factors contributed to Saroyan’s lack of identity. The early years spent in an orphanage after the death of his father, failed marriages, alienation of his children, and, finally, the deterioration of his career as a writer all created a man who spent his life searching to discover who he was. His is, therefore, a story of loss – loss because of circumstances over which he had no control, but, even more profoundly, loss which was self-imposed.

Major Works Consulted:

Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.
Dadrian, Vahakn. The History of the Armenian Genocide. Providence: Berghahn, 1995.
Saroyan, William. Places Where I’ve Done Time. New York: Praeger, 1972.
---. Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang in Forever. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
Photo Credit: Saroyan, William. My Name is Saroyan. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983.

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