An Interview with Taline Badrikian
Special for the Armenian Weekly
An idea can go a long way. Just ask Taline Badrikian, a loving mother who is currently working on publishing her first Armenian children’s board book.
“When I became a mother, I realized that there weren’t many Armenian board books for babies out there,” she said, in a recent interview with the Armenian Weekly.
The book, titled Oorakh Khozouguh (The Happy Piggy), is about a pig and his circle of animal friends. Badrikian wanted to make sure her story had a moral message for the children “It was important for me that the book had a message and that it was in plain Armenian text that kids could understand,” she explained.
Badrikian—an active member of the Greater Boston Armenian community growing up—wanted to make sure she provided Armenian children with a fun way to learn the language. She has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to make her dream a reality.
Badrikian attended Armenian daily and Saturday schools in her youth, and was a member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Homenetmen. Professionally, she recently started a marketing agency called Laveh.
For Badrikian, it is important that her child grows up with the Armenian culture. She wants the book to help others who want the same for their children. She also wants to help children expand their Armenian vocabulary, so they may use it over English. Finally, she hopes to inspire others through her activism within the community.
Below is an interview with Badrikian.
Manoug Mardirossian: Where did you get the idea for The Happy Piggy?
Taline Badrikian: When I became a mother, I realized that there were no Armenian board books for babies out there. I searched on Amazon and bought some books, but they were all paperback. At 8 or 9 months old, my daughter could pull books from the shelf and flip through them. Kids that age need board books—not paper books, which they can rip easily. And unfortunately, none of the Armenian ones were board books. It made me think that I’m likely not the only one with this problem, so I thought I’d try to do it myself.
There is an obvious financial investment, so I fronted all the costs of hiring an illustrator, doing advertising, building a website, and all the other things I could manage. I work in marketing and have a technology background, so it came easy to me. I found a freelance illustrator and told her my story.
M.M.: What is the premise of the book?
T.B.: The book is about a pig and its friends. While playing, they all notice a really bad smell in the air. After some investigation they find out the pig is covered in mud, so they give him a quick bath and go back to playing. A short while later, they notice the smell again, since the pig is playing in mud again. They finally realize that playing in the mud makes him happy, so they just go back to playing.
It was important for me that the book had a message and that it was in plain Armenian text that kids could understand.
M.M.: Is the book in Eastern or Western Armenian?
T.B.: The book is written in Western Armenian. I would love to have an Eastern Armenian version, but I do not currently have the budget to do a minimum print for both. I would love to have it in both dialects, but I’m starting with Western Armenian because many of the books available—even though they aren’t board books—are written in Eastern Armenian. I’d like to mix it up and maybe fill the gap.
M.M.: Why did you decide to target 0-3 year-olds?
T.B.: My husband’s not Armenian but he knows the culture, the alphabet, colors, animals, and even sings along with Taline [Armenian children’s singer] songs. So for me, it was important to undertake this project, because I felt a lot of pressure being the primary Armenian language provider in the house. She knows more Armenian than English and I exclusively speak to her in Armenian.
I feel very passionate about it because Armenian is my first language. Growing up in Watertown, Mass., I was a leader in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and always felt very attached to our culture and traditions. I want my daughter to have a similar experience; to carry forward the language and culture. She can count from 1-10, all of her questions and words are in Armenian, so it makes me proud; this project will definitely help.
I wanted to instill the Armenian language at this young age, because it gets so easy for it to get lost when your day-to-day language is English. I think part of the reason why we switch between English and Armenian—much like part of the reason this interview is in English—is because I’m more comfortable speaking English and my vocabulary is broader. I want to build their [children’s] vocabulary so they have more to say in Armenian than in English.
M.M.: Why did you choose the Kickstarter platform to fund it? Have you had experience with crowdfunding in the past?
T.B.: I have been a contributor to many crowdfunding projects over the years. For me, it’s a little bit of making sure that the market is behind me. I’ve already invested quite a bit in just illustrations and everything else to date, so I’m appealing to the community to meet me halfway. I’m not looking to recoup the money I have already put in to it—just enough to print. This is not a for-profit business. I am hoping to make enough money that I can print a second and third book without having to fundraise again. I want to use this as a stepping-stone.
M.M.: What has been the reaction of your friends and family? What about the general public?
T.B.: People are surprised when I tell them that I am writing a book. I’m not an author. I’m just a mom that understands what I want my child to experience in a book. I’m willing to take the risk if the community is also willing to take it with me, so that I can bring it to other parents.
I posted a picture of the cover of the book on Facebook once it was illustrated. A friend commented, “I’m so proud, because you did what every Armenian mom has wanted to do.” And I believe that’s true. I believe that this is something that you would buy as an Armenian parent and would want your child to have. Unfortunately, it is currently not available and people just accept this reality. I decided that I wouldn’t accept it. I’m just trying to make a difference and provide resources to the community.
I’m thankful to have had my 7th grade teacher from St. Stephens Saturday School editing my spelling and making sure I’m using proper grammar. It is amazing to be able to lean on people in the community. Here in Watertown and Boston, there is a huge Armenian community, but we have to remember that there are also Armenians in parts of the country, who might not have the same resources.
M.M.: Would you consider this a stepping stone for future projects?
T.B.: Quite frankly, I’m thrilled with the illustration work. Writing the story was challenging, but nothing I would shy away from doing again. As long as I can keep coming up with ideas I can see this becoming a book series.
I think of myself as a community activist. My ultimate goal is to fill the existing gap and provide the community with resources. I would also love to inspire others to do the same. I know that there are many creative people in our community.
M.M.: Do you have a target date for the book’s release in mind?
T.B.: My goal is to ultimately have this book under a Christmas tree. What better gift for an Armenian kid?