Born in 1908 in Fresno California to Armenian immigrant parents, William Saroyan would go on to become one of the top writers of the mid twentieth century. An incredibly talented writer, Saroyan tried his hand successfully at almost everything. Novels, plays, songs, and short stories all grace this writerís resume.
His birthplace of Fresno and his experiences in the San Joaquin Valley proved useful to his later writing. His father died when he was three years old, after which he was sent to an orphanage for four years. He left school at the young age of 15 and decided to become a writer. This decision was based partly on his own fatherís attempts at writing. His experience with death at such a young age, his time spent in the orphanage, and in later years, his formal schooling, created the "joyous sorrow" which characterizes Saroyanís works.
By 1920, Saroyan was able to live off of his writing, though mainstream recognition was only given after 1934ís short story "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze". In 1939 My Heartís in the Highlands opened to critical acclaim. His next big step came with the play Time of Your Life later in the same year, which was given the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, though he refused the prize for himself on grounds that art should not be given awards, especially by the rich who had no understanding of such things. However, he did accept the Drama Criticís Circle Award in that same year. Shortly after, in 1940, he again established himself in the genre of short stories with his collection titled My Name is Aram. 1940 also found Saroyan at MGM filming The Human Comedy. This novel-turned-movie won the Academy Award for best picture and original story for the screenplay.
Saroyan joined the Army during World War II. His absence from Broadway during the war would prove damaging to his career as a playwright. After the war, public interest in his work was quickly declining due to changes in opinion and taste. The Cave Dwellers was the one exception to his exile from New York; the play opened in 1957.
He married socialite Carol Marcus in 1943. They had two children, Aram and Lucy, and divorced after six years. Though they were to remarry, the union was one doomed to failure. They divorced for the second and final time two years later.
Though interest in his work declined, Saroyan remained a popular figure and continued to write. He began to write in the genre of memoir, including A Bicycle Rider of Beverly Hills (1952) and Short Drive, Sweet Chariot (1966). His last major book Obituaries (1979) received a National Book Award nomination.
Saroyan died in 1981 in his birthplace of Fresno, California, a hero of Armenian-American people. Half his ashes were shipped to Armenia for burial. In 1991, Saroyan was honored by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Postal services when a joint stamp was issued in his honor.
Saroyan left behind a bibliography of over fifty published works and more unpublished.