WATERTOWN, Mass.—Meghri Dervartanian is expressing her undying love and appreciation for her mother tongue with the release of her first book: Հպարտ Հայ (Proud Armenian). “A proud Armenian is someone who wants to give their all to preserve anything and everything Armenian…someone who lives and breathes our culture and our cause,” explained Dervartanian, who may as well be describing herself following the publication of her first ever children’s book, which she both authored and illustrated.
Her vibrant Western Armenian offering features two children—Haig and Nare—in the foreground of familiar landmarks including Mount Ararat and Noravank. The children are dressed in traditional daraz as they convey their pride in preserving the Armenian culture through song, dance and language in text written in simple, age-appropriate Armenian sentences. “There isn’t an Armenian culture without the Armenian language,” said Dervartanian during a recent interview with the Armenian Weekly. “The way that young children are going to keep reading and keep wanting to read Armenian is by loving it,” continued the first-year master’s student in elementary education at Lesley University. The 23 year-old is also a longtime member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter, chair of the public relations council for the AYF Eastern Region, a khmpabedouhi for the Homenetmen Boston Chapter, an Armenian teacher at St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School, an Armenian language tutor and a spirited dancer for Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston.
Dervartanian can now add ‘children’s author’ to her long list of accomplishments. Her first storybook has been in the works for the past year or so. It gained momentum this past spring during her time in Armenia when Nanar Avedissian—a budding public relations professional and repat from Aleppo, Syria—took an interest in helping her cousin digitize her delightful sketches, ultimately bringing them to life. “Our culture is the essence of our identity. All that we have is our culture,” said Avedissian, who believes that Armenian language development is rooted in the home. The text, in fact, lends itself to engaging interactions with the child as parents and teachers can converse with everyday examples about the importance of praying, singing and speaking in Armenian.
The timing of this book’s release, which gained the support and partial financial backing of Hamazkayin Boston and the AYF Eastern Region respectively, was unintentional, says Dervartanian. It turned out to be ideal, however, considering the looming threats to Armenian culture in territories lost to Azerbaijan. “This is a huge loss for us, but this is nowhere near the end,” urged Dervartanian. “This is a continuation of what we have always fought for—a free, united and independent Armenia. Our ultimate goal has not changed.”
It was a thrilling moment for the young author this week when she received her first shipment of Հպարտ Հայ; she had already sold 100 books in less than 24 hours of her announcement on Facebook. Her first purchase, she says, came from none other than her dear friend and Weekly contributor Kristina Ayanian. “It was a ray of sunshine…finally some good news,” commented Avedissian amid the fallout from Armenia’s agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia to end the war in Artsakh.
Proceeds will support displaced families and returning soldiers through the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) and the AYF Western Region’s With Our Soldiers (WOS) program.
Dervartanian says she hopes to write more children’s books in the future and encourages her peers to use this moment in Armenian history to reawaken their senses and use their talents for the good of their homeland.
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