Refugee Tale Makes a Home in Your Heart

The Daily Californian
April 8, 2004

Refugee Tale Makes a Home in Your Heart: Nightmarish
Subject Matter Makes for a Reader’s `Dream’


Micheline Aharonian Marcom
[Riverhead Books]

We live in a day and age where Janet Jackson’s `wardrobe malfunction’
inspires an outraged public to insist on immediate drastic measures.
The masses, deeply offended, have gone so far as to call for a federal
investigation aimed at righting this wrong.

That said, I am recommending Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s `The
Daydreaming Boy’ not only for its literary value but also as an
apparently much-needed prescription of perspective.

Honestly, with the amount of sympathy generated by Vahé Tcheubjian
as he narrates his tormented existence and recalls his troubled youth
as a refugee from the Armenian Genocide, a reader risks emotional
exhaustion. But before I scare anyone into picking up the newest
Danielle Steel instead, I want to make it clear that I mean this in
the best way possible. Like a fictional Anne Frank, Vahé doesn’t
ask, so much as force you to share his burden, understand his plight
and eventually reevaluate a world that would allow such atrocities as
genocide to happen. His insightful retrospective of hopeless days
spent in a Lebanese orphanage, ironically deemed The Bird’s Nest as it
is as far from comforting as possible, is genuinely heartbreaking.

`I understand now, in this my middle years, that they gave us God in
the orphanage like the rich will give a coin to the corner beggar –
it’s enough to keep us quiet and continually searching the horizon,’
Vahé narrates.

Along with introspective analysis, the path from a grim past to a
subtler but equally dreary present is exposed through a series of
intermittent flashbacks. In this way, Marcom beautifully illustrates
the transformation of a defenseless `Turk-dog’ child mercilessly
tortured by his peers into the violently lustful, though married
Armenian man of present-day (or rather the novel’s present-day, the
1960s). Accordingly, the reader must endure an array of necessarily
disturbing, though perhaps exceedingly graphic scenes where the victim
becomes the aggressor. It is notable, however, that even when this is
the case, Vahé’s constant self-awareness allows him to draw
parallels between himself and those he victimizes. From his next door
neighbor’s frightened 10-year-old Palestinian servant girl to the
psychotic monkey at the local zoo, the novel is littered with physical
manifestations of Vahé’s inner turmoil. And through this vulnerable
stream-of-consciousness, Malcom effectively humanizes our protagonist
by reminding us of the motives lying behind his deviant actions.

With such a powerful, unique style, the story, although somewhat
gruesome, is enthralling. Short chapters are packed with poignant
questions and such haunting memories you are almost surprised to find
that it is not a grown-up Vahé looking up at you from the book
jacket’s back cover. As I said before, though you are hopelessly
heartsick by the last page you still find yourself satisfied. Which is
probably more than you can say when you put down the latest issue of

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS