Narine Minasyan’s books have captivated young audiences, as well as their parents. They offer a unique perspective into Armenian culture while also showcasing different cultures—an exciting way to engage and entertain young minds. Recently, she spoke with the Armenian Weekly about her book series The Adventures of Andre and Noyemi, which so far includes Barev!, Bari Akhorjak and Jan Pari!
Talar Keoseyan (T.K.): How did you come up with the concept for your books, and what led you to this endeavor?
Narine Minasyan (N.M.): It happened after I became a mom. I was reading to my kids, and I noticed that there were no characters that they could culturally relate to. I noticed this in 2015 when Andre was born. When Noyemi was born in 2017, I thought, surely someone is going to do something with culturally diverse characters. I have a background as a story producer. One thing led to another, I started writing and the series was born in 2020. I wrote from a place where I would wish for my children to view and experience the world. I wanted them to have books with different and diverse characters that they could interact with. It then turned into something that other kids could relate to too!
N.M.: Throughout my schooling, I never had any books that represented me. I was born in Hollywood, California and grew up in Glendale. It was okay that I didn’t see myself in literature, but now it’s so important to be proactive and make a positive change. That’s why I felt that I had to do it now.
T.K.: Do you have fond childhood memories with books, and what gave you this love to write books?
N.M.: I wasn’t much of a reader but more of a TV and movie watcher. My love has always been storytelling. When I would read a book, I would see it in my head as a movie. I’m a visual learner. My favorite childhood memory is watching movies with my dad. We would talk about the meanings behind the story. My dad was fascinated that my eyes would catch inconsistencies in films within different shots and frames. We are big storytellers.
T.K.: Your books are so inviting to kids with their content and illustrations. I also love the fact that you include other cultures. Your books are very relatable.
N.M.: Thank you! Truthfully, I didn’t grow up in an Armenian bubble and had friends of different cultures and races. I wanted to incorporate other cultures as well as my Armenian culture.
T.K.: How have your books affected children? I know your book readings are a hit.
N.M.: One of the sweetest things I hear is when kids greet each other in their friend’s language. When an Armenian child says hola to their friend, I love the inclusivity and celebration of each other. Kids are so pure and unaware of adult problems. They find it cool to speak in another language. We make things more complicated as adults, while children are so innocent and instinctually already so inclusive.
T.K.: How many books have you written?
N.M.: I’ve written three: The Adventures of Andre and Noyemi: Barev!, Bari Akhorjak and Jan Pari! I was hopeful that the fourth one would be out this year, but it will be 2024. The title will be Bari Yekar. Andre and Noyemi will be traveling to Armenia.
T.K.: I love that you have your kids’ names as the characters.
N.M.: The kids used to get so confused when they would see the book in other people’s homes or even at Barnes and Noble. They would say, “But that’s our book.” Now, they understand. They are seven and five. This chapter of my life has been one of my proudest. I’ve worked as a story producer in reality television for 12 years, but children’s literature and eventually children’s programming is my true calling.
You know when they say, do something you love, and you won’t work a day in your life. I feel that way. Writing a children’s book is harder than people think, but because I enjoy it, it doesn’t bother me that I’m in my seventh draft of my fourth book.
T.K.: What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish a book?
N.M.: The story is the most important part. I say that from a very critical and self-aware storyteller perspective. The story has to be solid. It has to have a good hook, an obstacle, a lesson. You have to catch the reader’s attention in the first two pages. For young writers, write, write, write, write. No one is perfect. You will go back and edit. When I visit schools, I always tell students to never stop writing. As far as publishing, I self published. It is very rewarding because you have control, but it’s also a lot of work. It’s a lot of research, and there is a learning curve with marketing and getting your book out there, but if your story is good, it will catch on like wildfire. The success of my books is 100% thanks to the support of the community.
T.K.: Anything else you would like to share?
N.M.: Thank you so much for the interview and sharing my passion with your readers. I love connecting with my readers and getting feedback from parents. It truly makes my day when parents and kids share with me about how my books made them feel. When a parent tells me how their child’s world has changed for the better because they see themselves in an English book, it really is an indescribable moment. I never take it for granted.