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Children's Author Shares her Armenian Culture through Stories

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 07 April 2014 - 07:06 AM

Children's Author Shares her Armenian Culture through Stories

By Becky Morales for KidWorldCitizen

Posted on April 5, 2014 |


I am so excited I got to interview award-winning children's author
Lucine Kasbarian, who shares Armenian culture in her folktales and
stories for children. You can see more at her web site. This post does
contain affiliate links, thank you for your support!

Tell me about your background. Where are you from and where have you
lived? What cultures do you identify with?
I was born in New Jersey to American-born Armenian parents. Their own
parents were survivors of the Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide
perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish regime in 1915. Though I have lived
primarily in the United States, I've traveled extensively to the Near
and Middle East, and identify with those cultures.

How did your parents teach you about your cultural heritage when you
were growing up?

Because the Genocide nearly wiped out our nation, we considered
ourselves an endangered species. As a result, my parents were very
conscientious about immersing me in the Armenian culture. We spoke
Armenian in the home and I was given constant access to Armenian
music, literature, art ... and the company of fellow Armenians.

Growing up in North America, I was encouraged to "live in two worlds."
There was my American life, where I went to public school and took
part in ballet class, our school chorus and the school track team. I
also had an Armenian life where I went to a Saturday Armenian school,
an Armenian folk dance class, Armenian liturgical and folk chorales,
and sports with an Armenian-American youth organization.

In high school, my closest friends were Americans of Russian, Greek,
Indian and Persian descent. Some peers called us the United Nations.
Being part of an ethnic minority naturally made me curious about the
other cultures of the world, and embracing diversity was fun and
interesting. You can say that exposure to Armenian and other cultures
contributed to my interest in foreign travel, foreign languages, world
music, folk art and international cuisine. So in truth, my Armenian
cultural immersion was a passageway into becoming the citizen of the
world that I consider myself to be today.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming an author and
the books you have written?

When growing up, there were few books for children produced by
mainstream American publishers about Armenia and the Armenian culture.
Fortunately, I discovered the Armenian folk tale picture books retold
by Virginia Tashjian and Nonny Hogrogian, and two middle grade novels
- Some of Us Survived by Kerop Bedoukian and The Road From Home by
David Kherdian. Seeing Armenian history and culture validated through
these books were precious for Armenian-American youths like me who
wanted to see themselves represented in literature.

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, many maps of the world did
not outline Armenia and could have led readers to think that it did
not exist.

Eastern Armenia had been a Soviet state from 1920 up until 1991 and
individual Soviet states were not always identified on maps. The Iron
Curtain (and life before the Internet) prevented people living outside
the Soviet Union from
having contact with or even reading very much about the many peoples
and cultures within it. (The term "Iron Curtain" refers to a barrier
to understanding and the exchange of information or ideas, created by
cultural, political, and military hostility between the Soviet Union
and other countries.)

Western Armenia is today part of modern Turkey and its native Armenian
population still struggles with persecution and discrimination. As a
result, not much literary information about minority groups was
available to the public, in English and for young readers, about that
part of our patrimony.

So when I became a writer, I producedArmenia: A Rugged Land, an
Enduring People to give young people something that was missing when I
was growing up: an easy, illustrated introduction to Armenia and its
people - in English and for young readers who were of Armenian
ancestry as well as for readers who weren't but would hopefully find
it interesting.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is an illustrated picture book
and a family heirloom. This folk tale was passed down verbally through
the generations of my family before I translated it for publication.
During bedtime and in his ancestral dialect, my father would recite to
me the story of an aggressive bird who travels the Armenian
countryside in his ambitions to become a minstrel.

Along the way, I've also written for a number of children's
publications. The most recent contribution is in the Spring 2014 issue
of Skipping Stones Multicultural Children's Magazine. This issue will
contain stories about Armenia and Armenians, including a photo
montage. Skipping Stones celebrates cultural and ecological diversity,
provides a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences among young
people, and is suited for readers aged 8 and up. Each issue contains
essays, stories, poems, photos, recipes, and folktales written by both
children and adults from around the world.

Often times, folktales teach us a lesson, or show children what is
valued in a particular culture. What values or characteristics are the
folktales teaching young children in these stories?

Armenian folk tales come from an ancient oral tradition, where they,
and the values and truths found in them, were shared around the hearth
to entertain and educate. The Greedy Sparrow tells of a trickster
bird who takes advantage of everyone he meets - a baker, a shepherd, a
bride & groom, and a troubador -- and in the end, receives a
comeuppance for his trickery. I think the story can touch all ages,
not only because the story conveys a message that there are
consequences to manipulation and dishonesty, but because it also
showcases native Armenians practicing traditional folkways -- rendered
by the great illustrator, Maria Zaikina. To address the deeper
implications of the tale - such as refusing requests with which you
are not comfortable or using what does not belong to you, readers can
visit my study guide here.

This particular tale has great personal meaning. My survivor ancestors
did not have the luxury of hauling material possessions with them on
their death marches into the Syrian Desert. Thus, non-material
treasures, such as what was carried in their memory, become precious
links to our identity, cultural traditions and past. The Greedy
Sparrow was one of these treasures, which is why I call it a family

Given this, I hope that Kid World Citizens will think about
documenting what their own elders have passed down to them in order to
preserve and cultivate what is known about the various cultures of the
world. We have not only a right but also a responsibility to tell our
stories and speak our truths.

On a final note: Realizing how much Kid World Citizens love cuisine
and holiday traditions from around the globe, I'd like to invite
readers to visitThe Armenian Kitchen, where right now, readers can
discover some amazing Armenian vegetarian recipes for Lent, and
Armenian Holiday Traditions-an illustrated guide for kids about how to
celebrate some of the more memorable Armenian holidays throughout the
year. Enjoy!

Also, if you are looking for more on Armenian culture, check out all
of Lucine's books and publications on her web site.


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