Goudsouzian, Aram 1973-
GOUDSOUZIAN, Aram 1973-
Born 1973, in Winchester, MA; son of Nishan (a doctor) and Mary Goudsouzian. Education: Colby College, B.A., 1994; University of Massachusetts, M.A., 1997; Purdue University, Ph.D., 2002.
Office—Department of History, University of Memphis, 122 Mitchell Hall, Memphis, TN 38152-34350; fax: 901-678-2720. E-mail—ag[email protected]
Historian and author. Suffolk University, history instructor, 2001-03; University of Massachusetts, Boston, history instructor, 2002-03; Hamilton College, visiting assistant professor of history, 2003; University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, assistant professor of history.
Booklist Top Ten Biographies of 2004 citation, 2004, for Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon.
The Hurricane of 1938, Commonwealth Editions (Beverly, MA), 2004.
Historian Aram Goudsouzian is the author of a highly acclaimed biography of actor Sidney Poitier. Hailed by Booklist critic Jack Helbig as a "scholarly" work that "reads like a well-written, highly addictive novel," Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon traces the rise of this black actor from the son of a poor farmer in the Bahamas to celebrity status in Hollywood, where he starred in such films as Lilies of the Field, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. In 2002 Poitier was awarded an Academy Award for lifetime achievement.
For Khalil Abdullah, writing in the Black Issues Book Review, Goudsouzian's biography is "in many ways a portrait of an industry that not only reflects public sentiment but often seeks to shape it." Abdullah further felt that Goudsouzian portrays Poitier "as a human being [with] strengths, frailties and insecurities," and he called the book a "well-written, invaluable resource for devotees of film and social history." However, Richard Schickel, writing in the New York Times Book Review, was more critical in his assessment. Schickel felt that Goudsouzian's book "is well researched and well enough written." Yet he went on to note that "it is also profoundly irritating, grudging and persnickety about Poitier's achievements, which he judges to be insufficiently revolutionary both in the roles he played on film and in real life." Such an evaluation is the result of Goudsouzian's contention that, while America in the 1960s was becoming radicalized about civil rights and black power, Poitier was still playing roles, as in Lilies of the Field, A Patch of Blue, and To Sir, with Love, that were "accommodationist."
A more positive summary came from Library Journal reviewer Michael Tierno, who dubbed Goudsouzian's study "comprehensive," noting that the author shows not only the Hollywood persona but also how Poitier "became a symbol of the emerging civil rights consciousness in America." A critic for Publishers Weekly similarly observed that Goudsouzian "thoughtfully depicts the actor's efforts to handle both praise and damnation."
Goudsouzian is also the author of another 2004 work, The Hurricane of 1938, a study of the immense storm that blew through New England with winds of 121 miles per hour, uprooting some 275 million trees, destroying almost 10,000 houses and cottages, and knocking down 20,000 miles of telephone and power lines. Dubbed the "Long Island Express," because of how it ripped through the northeastern states, the hurricane of 1938 was, as Goudsouzian demonstrates, one of the worst storms of the century.
Goudsouzian told CA: "Most of my research tries to examine the political implications of popular culture—in particular, how movies and sports shape and reflect American race relations. Poitier struck me as an interesting character because his career spans the 1950s through the 1970s, providing an extraordinary lens into how Hollywood treated the civil rights movement, and how regular Americans—black and white—considered race throughout this era. But the other appealing aspect of historical writing is simply the storytelling, and the Hurricane of 1938 is an amazing story. So I enjoyed the opportunity to write a very different style of book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armenian Reporter, March 22, 2003, "Aram Goudsouzian, Ph.D., to Lecture at ALMA," p. 16.
Black Issues Book Review, September-October, 2004, Khalil Abdullah, review of Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon, p. 45.
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Jack Helbig, review of Sidney Poitier, p. 1254; June 1, 2004, "Top Ten Biographies," p. 1694.
Library Journal, March 1, 2004, Michael Tierno, review of Sidney Poitier, p. 80.
New York Times Book Review, April 25, 2004, Richard Schickel, review of Sidney Poitier, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, January 19, 2004, review of Sidney Poitier, p. 62.
Colby Magazine Online,http://www.colby.edu/ (September 27, 2004), "Aram Goudsouzian."
Commonwealth Editions Web site,http://www.commonwealtheditions.com/ (September 27, 2004), The Hurricane of 1938.
Hamilton College Web site, http://www.hamilton.edu/ (September 37, 2004), "Aram Goudsouzian."
University of Memphis Department of History Web site,http://history.memphis.edu/ (September 27, 2004), "Aram Goudsouzian."