The intersection of Commerce Avenue and Valmont Street in Tujunga will be dedicated Saturday as William Saroyan Square, honoring the prolific Armenian-American writer of plays, short stories and novels.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who authored the motion to designate the intersection in Saroyan’s honor, and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore are set to speak at the 4 p.m. ceremony at the intersection, which coincides with the fourth annual Sunland-Tujunga Armenian Arts and Cultural Festival, which is held along Commerce Avenue.
Saroyan was born Aug. 31, 1908 in Fresno, lived with his brother and two sisters in an Oakland orphanage for several years after his father died, dropped out of high school, worked a series of low-paying, short-lived jobs before finding success as a writer.
Saroyan’s first book, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, and Other Stories” was published by Random House in October 1934 and became a best-seller.
Saroyan wrote more than 4,000 works, including the play “The Time of Your Life,” set in a run down bar in San Francisco that attracted an eccentric clientele.
“The Time of Your Life” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1940 but he rejected it, declaring “I do not believe in prizes or award in the realm of art and have always been particularly opposed to material or official patronage of the arts by government, organization or individual, a naive and innocent style of behavior which nevertheless, I believe, vitiates and embarrasses art at its source.”
In 1944, Saroyan won an Oscar in the since-discontinued category of best story for the film “The Human Comedy,” about the effects of World War II on the home front over a year in the life of a teenager (Mickey Rooney) in a California town based on Fresno.
Saroyan’s other works included “The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills,” in which he first reveals his orphanage years and “Obituaries,” which brought him a nomination for an American Book Award in 1980, the year before he died at age 72 from cancer.