From the Twin Falls Times-News:
I first met Liyah Babayan last year while covering the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Since 2009, refugees and members of the community gather around a plaque in Twin Falls City Park to pay their respects to the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 in present-day Turkey. Last year, it was a cold and dreary day when about 30 people gathered to pray and lay roses near the plaque.
Five generations of Babayan’s have experienced genocide. Her family fled Baku, Azerbaijan, to Armenia when she was a child. From 1988 through 1990, the Armenian population in Soviet Azerbaijan were beaten, tortured, murdered and expelled from the city. In 1992, when she was 11, her family was brought to Twin Falls with help from the College of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Program.
Babayan didn’t know English when she first arrived. As she started learning the language, her first sentence she wrote in her journal said: “War kills childhood.”
Her essays for school were always about the horrific things she had seen and lived through as a child. While other children were sharing stories of what they did on their summer vacation, Babayan was telling stories of her family standing in lines for rations and secretly living in a utility closet inside of an Armenian school for four years because they had no where else to go.
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She said her teacher at Harrison Elementary, Nancy Gunter, gave her a copy of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.”
Frank’s story not only gave Babayan someone to relate to, but also provided her an outlet to express her feelings. Babayan began writing her memoir in the fourth grade. She decided at a young age to share her story, not only for herself, but also for her family and those who lost their lives.
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Babayan is now 30 and has two children. She has owned Ooh La La!, a women’s boutique in downtown Twin Falls, for seven years. She recently was appointed as a member of the Twin Falls School Board.
She still has her old journals and classroom writings that she keeps in two storage boxes.
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In the fall, Babayan hopes to self-publish her 200-page memoir titled “LIMINAL: A Refugee Memoir.” She has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000 to publish hard copies of the book, which will also be digitally available. Her campaign ends March 2. As of Friday, the campaign had almost received $3,000.
Russ Tremayne, an associate professor of history at College of Southern Idaho, is editing her book. Babayan said she met him while taking his history class five years ago.
“It’s going to be self-published. I had a contract, but decided against it because the integrity of the story can be changed,” she said.
Link to the rest at Twin Falls Times-News