Children’s Book Author Armenianizes Traditional Tales


The covers of a book by Talene Dadian White

By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BEDFORD. N.Y. — In September, children’s book author Talene Dadian White will add two new titles, The Three Little Karmeegs (The Three Little Pigs) and Voski and the Archoogians (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) to her series of Armenianized traditional tales, which includes Little Red Hood and the Kesh Kayl (Little Red Riding Hood), The Gurabia Man (The Gingerbread Man) and Hagop and the Hairy Giant (Jack and the Beanstalk).

As the titles indicate, White has interpolated Armenian words for English words and she has done that throughout the texts. Thus the grandmother in the Little Red Riding Hood tale becomes Medz Mayreeg and the cow in Hagop in the Hairy Giant becomes gov. The Armenian words are printed in italic script and there is a little dictionary at the back of each book that gives the translation.

White, who was trained as a lawyer at City University in New York, and is the mother of two children, ages 4 and 8, said, “When I started to look for good children’s books in Armenian, I couldn’t find very much, and so I had this idea of taking traditional children’s stories and giving them an Armenian flavor.”

The books, printed in paperback with laminated, waterproof covers, are illustrated in such a way that they emphasize the Armenian approach to the stories. The characters, almost without exception, have dark, deep-set eyes and are dressed in Armenian peasant fashion.

“I especially love the drawings of the Hairy Giant,” said White. “He looks so fiercely Armenian.”

White, who is married to a lawyer, practiced personal injury law for 10 years, first for a large law firm and then on her own, before deciding to give up her legal career and become a writer.

“I ran the New York marathon and that was a very empowering experience. It gave me the feeling I could do anything I wanted to. Once I had children, I had less time for the law and I had always wanted to write. So, I made the decision to become a writer.”

White’s father, whose family was originally from Turkey, was born in the United States and her mother was born in Aleppo. Syria. White was baptized at Holy Martyrs Church and now attends St. Gregory’s in White Plains.

“I don’t speak Armenian fluently and neither do my children. But they do go to Saturday School and they are learning Armenian there,” she said.

“As for the Armenian words I choose to use in the texts of the story, I try to pick out the most common ones and I even use some funny ones like the word of buttocks, for example. I space them out in the text.”

In addition to inserting Armenian words into the stories, White has somewhat changed some of the stories. In the original version of Little Red Riding Hood, the people who kill the wolf are hunters. In White’s version, they are lumberjacks, “because I put them in an Armenian forest,” she explained.

White’s illustrator, who is Russian (but whose name does not appear on the books) has helped her with the book design, as has Abril Books in Glendale, Calif. Soon, all her titles will be translated into Western Armenian with the help of the services at Abril Books.

White has been able to achieve a fair amount of success in the marketplace, although she self-publishes her work and does not enjoy the distribution and marketing services of a traditional, commercial publisher. She works with a subsidiary of Amazon, createspace.

“All the books are available through Amazon and the listings are linked to my website. I’ve also had a lot of success marketing through Armenian bookstores, libraries, schools and churches. I am pretty well connected to the Armenian community and I’ve sent out a lot of emails about my publications,” she said. “I really think self-publishing is the wave of the future, and especially if you are writing for a niche market you can have a lot of success. I am doing a lot of readings in schools and I have even started to sell the books in Canada.”

White also plans another marketing strategy — packaging her books in a gift box set.

“I think these will be quite popular for children’s birthdays and other celebrations,” she said. White’s next book will be a cookbook and she hopes to have that published by a mainstream publisher.

“I think there is a lot of interest in Middle Eastern food, and after all,Middle Eastern cuisine is eaten in a lot of different countries and cultures, not just in Armenia.”

She concluded, “Publishing in Armo-English is an idea whose time has come. Most Armenian- Americans who are born here speak English and I think that introducing these words into stories that are familiar is something that works very well. It is a good way for Armenian children to stay in touch with their language and culture.”

White will be giving a reading and book signing on Sunday, August 28, in Glendale. For more information, visit ArmenianKidsBooks.com.