Book Review by Dr. Minas Kojayan
The Armenian in America
Los Angeles: Armenian Arts Fund, 2012
When we speak or write about Stepan Partamian, one of our community’s most intriguing figures, we must not balk from using adjectives such as “unique,” “uncommon,” “singular,” or “strange,” since all are apt descriptions of his character and accomplishments—as an art activist, a television host, and, especially, a researcher. A case in point is his latest series of books, dedicated to the history and culture of the Armenian-American community.
In 2009 Partamian published Yes, We Have, which was followed by Yes, We Have Too and its Armenian translation, Ayo, Menk Enk. Subsequently, in 2012, the author released his most colorful volume yet, The Armenian in America. All of these publications attest to the distinctness of Partamian’s work, but also, in particular, his passion as a researcher. The Partamian we have come to enjoy on television screens could not have offered anything less.
Partamian’s Yes, We Have series presents a sweeping overview of Armenian-American achievements in science, technology, art, literature, politics, journalism, commerce, sports, and other fields. As for his latest work, The Armenian in America, it registers as a breathtaking visual panorama of Armenian-American life, in which the author presents, with the passion of a pilgrim, hundreds of photographs that depict Armenian landmarks as well as public signs containing Armenian references.
Partamian has driven thousands of miles across the United States to compile the material for the project. He has visited a total of 45 states, photographing every Armenian school, church, cultural or commercial landmark, monument, and street or highway stretch bearing an Armenian name. He has then distilled the massive photo collection into the 172-page The Armenian in America, complete with detailed captions, which are sometimes sprinkled with his biting commentary.
The Armenian in America is a documentary work of outstanding meticulousness, the type of volume that requires publishing houses to deploy dozens of experts and spend a great deal of money. It is remarkable, therefore, that this book is the work of a single author, photographer, and designer. As I leaf through The Armenian in America, I imagine Stepan Partamian, with his signature beard and gleaming head, digital camera dangling from his neck, rushing out of his car and taking photos of a genocide khatchkar (stone cross).
Partamian has spared neither time nor expense for the making of The Armenian in America, hoping that, through it, the world will learn that his people have not only given inventors and industrialists to the United States, but have helped enrich the American landscape with structures and landmarks unique to Armenian culture.
In Partamian’s words, from the preface of the book: “Are our glorified Christian pedigree and the Genocide all that we’ve ‘given’ the world? As importantly, can we afford to be so myopic as to ignore the extraordinary, often history-making, contributions of Armenian individuals to humanity, and to fail to encourage the next generation of outstanding Armenians to create and invent things to their hearts’ content?”
The Armenian in America was edited by Ishkhan Jinbashian. Partamian has dedicated the book to the late Harout Yeretsian, his beloved friend and driving force behind Los Angeles’ iconic Abril Bookstore.
The Armenian in America, priced at $40, is available for purchase at Armenian bookstores and online at www.TheArmenian.com.