My first experience with David Kherdian came through his book The Road from Home, a memoir of his mother’s journey from Armenia to the United States. Still later I subscribed to Forkroads, a multicultural literary journal produced by Kherdian. Kherdian grew up in Racine, Wisconsin and his writing about his relationships there offer glimpses of love. While I have enjoyed reading many of his books, I find myself especially returning to his poetic remembrance of Racine titled Friends: A Memoir (Globe Press, 1993). In it I find connections with a gathering of lost friends.
Yesterday’s mail brought Factory Town: A 20th Century Memoir, Kherdian’s newest volume about Racine. I stopped reading because I gained a sense of satisfaction from one sentence in the introduction. As he writes of Racine, Kherdian summarizes the whole of the 20th century immigrant family experience, one I lived in my small hometown in Virginia—another factory town in which Armenians, Greeks, Syrians, Lebanese, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Germans, and even Turks were able to start life anew in the new land of the United States. They arrived in a factory town where, as long as they worked according to directions, they provided for their families and were also able to help other relatives and friends move to the freedom and relative safety of the United States. Kherdian addresses the familiar difficulties of this immigrant life in the US in much of his work— coming into a new culture, learning a new language and different customs—and he also writes of camaraderie. While life is difficult, we see that the difficulties are eased through the shared experiences of friendship and community.
Here is the sentence from Kherdian that stopped me:
America will become again the America of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau, or the desecrated junk heap it is turning into because of what the pitiless, immoral oligarchs have created for themselves out of greed, contempt, and their own psychopathic insatiable lust for power.
(np, Factory Town)
May we hear the words of the prophet.
I will return to read Kherdian’s book and learn more about the place in which he set so much writing, but I will savor this one sentence for days to come.
(Factory Town: A 20th Century Memoir. Tavnon Books, 2017 ISBN: 9781548324940 )