7 books you need on your shelf

Date: December 12, 2016

The Ashurbanipal Library at AUAF is home to the largest collection of Assyrian texts in the world. You’ll find everything from old publications and newspapers to novels and dictionaries lining our aisles. Anything by Assyrians or about Assyrians—you’ll find at our library. Here are some of our favorite picks we feel should be on the shelves of every Assyrian household:

img_3597English-Assyrian/Assyrian-English Dictionary: The Dawn of Civilization
Simo Parpola
Writing is Humankind’s most far-reaching creation. No other invention has had a longer and greater impact. The history of writing and the history of mankind are synonymous. Everything that happened prior to the invention of writing we label prehistory. Parpola’s unique dictionary covers 13,000 Assyrian entries and 17,000 English entries. It includes words attested in ancient Assyrian texts, plus Assyrian equivalents for all concepts found in a modern dictionary.

img_3604The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence
Sargon G. Donabed, Onver A. Cetrez, Aryo Makko
The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence is a collection of essays discussing Assyrian culture and identity from language, ritual, symbol, and identity perspectives from the ancient world to the modern day. The theoretical interpretations and methodological approaches covered in the book aim to narrate the past, presence and future of the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Assyrian people. Available on Amazon.


img_3601The Flickering Light of Asia
Joel E. Werda
The Flickering Light of Asia (or the Assyrian Nation and Church) was written by the Rev. Joel E. Warda and published by him in 1924. The book is divided into two parts: (1) The Assyrian Nation and the Great World War and (2) Christianity and the Assyrian Nation. This book was written to enlighten English speaking audiences about the history and plight of the Assyrians and to further their claims for a homeland during the peace conferences following WWI. Available on Lulu. Read the full text online on AINA.

img_3603Assyrians: From Bedr Khan to Saddam Hussein
Frederick A. Aprim
“The greatest catastrophe to visit the Assyrians in the modern period was the genocide committed against them, as Christians, during the Great War. From the Assyrian renaissance experienced when, miraculously, they became the objects of Western Christian missionary educational and medical efforts, the Assyrians fell into near oblivion. Shunned by the Allies at the treaties that ended WWI and after, Assyrians drifted into Diaspora, destructive denominationalism, and fierce assimilation tendencies as exercised by chauvinistic Arab, Persian and Turkish state entities. Today they face the growing clout of their old enemies and neighbors, the Kurds, another Muslim ethnic group that threatens to control power, demand assimilation, and offer to engulf Assyrians as the price for continuing to live in the ancient Assyrian homeland. As half of the world s last Aramaic speaking population has arrived in unwanted Diaspora, some voices are making an impact, including that of Frederick Aprim.” Available on Amazon.

img_3605Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan
Hannibal Travis
Genocide in the Middle East describes the genocide of the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It situates these crimes in their historical context, as outgrowths of intolerant religious traditions, imperialism and the rise of the nation-state, Cold War insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, and the global competition for resources and markets at the expense of indigenous peoples. This requires a more thorough investigation of the case law on genocide than has been attempted in the literature on genocide to date, including detailed accounts of the prosecutions of the leaders of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials after Operation Iraqi Freedom, and of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other leaders of Sudan by the International Criminal Court.  Finally, the book explores emerging problems of genocidal terrorism, cultural genocide, and structural genocide due to starvation, disease, and displacement. Available on Amazon.

img_1979Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century 
Sargon G. Donabed
Were they simply bystanders, victims of collateral damage who played a passive role in its history? Furthermore, how have they negotiated their position throughout various periods of Iraq’s state-building processes? This book details a narrative of Iraq in the twentieth century and refashions the Assyrian experience as an integral part of Iraq’s broader contemporary historiography. It is the first comprehensive account to contextualize a native experience alongside the emerging state. Using primary and secondary data, this book offers a nuanced exploration of the dynamics that have affected and determined the trajectory of the Assyrians’ experience in twentieth-century Iraq. Available on Amazon only.

img_2277A Collection of Writings on Assyrians
David B. Perley
This book collects the writings of the prominent author, the late David Barsum Perley (1901–1979), who devoted his life to the Assyrian cause. He continuously supported and fought for the rights of the Assyrians. Through his numerous writings, he gave a voice to the situation of Assyrians in their countries of origin in the Middle East. He also vehemently supported the historical Assyrian name, the Assyrian identity and the history of the Assyrians. Available on Lulu only.

All books are available for purchase at The Ashurbanipal Library unless otherwise noted. 

13 Unique Christmas Gifts for Any Assyrian

Date: November 28, 2016

It’s officially the season to start hunting down thoughtful presents for your favorite people. Whether you’ve already gotten a head-start on your holiday shopping, or you’ve yet to even make your list, this list will help you find a gift for just about any Assyrian without breaking your budget.


Lamassu Ties
Sold exclusively at AUAF, these ties have a classic, vintage look. They’re the perfect gift for any man in your life—dad, husband, boyfriend, brother, cousin, uncle, uncle’s second cousin’s father, etc. Available in two colors—a deep red or navy blue—these ties are limited in quantity, meaning once they’re gone, they’re gone. The best part? They’re only $10. Stop by The Ashurbanipal Library Store before they’re history.


Shamash Pendant
In ancient Assyria, Shamash was the god of the sun. He was also seen as the god of justice because of his power of light over darkness and evil. This sterling-silver Shamash pendant is a beautiful, subtle touch of Assyria that would liven up any outfit. It’s also available in gold. The pendant comes complete with a matching 18″ box chain for only $30. Check out Larsa’s Jewelry for their full collection which includes matching cuff links and a gorgeous Lamassu pendant.


Ugly Eda Sweater
Chances are, you’re going to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party this holiday season, so you may want to grab one of these for yourself. Either way, this sweater would make for a good laugh and a great gift. They’re available in red or blue—for both adults and children. You can feel good about this one, too, because Assyrian Heritage Tees is donating a portion of all proceeds to Etuti in time for Christmas.


buried-cheeseBuried Cheese
Nobody does cheese like the ancient Assyrians. Ancient Cooking just launched their newest product: Buried Cheese. A treasured family recipe is now yours to uncover and enjoy. Learn more about this ancient tradition by visiting their website. For only $12, this savory blend is a great pick for any cheese-lover.


Artwork by Paul Batou
Yes, we know we promised our suggestions wouldn’t break your budget—and no, we didn’t lie. If you’re like most Assyrians, you’ve been yearning for a piece of Paul Batou‘s artwork for your home or office. Get this: You can now decorate your walls with his masterpieces without spending thousands of dollars. Batou has made reprints of his custom pieces available online, making his work more accessible to his fans. There are tons of options: a canvas print, an acrylic print, a framed print—even in the form of a tote bag, a throw pillow, or an iPhone case—any of which would make a wonderful Christmas gift. Starting at $17.

umbrellaAssyrian Flag Umbrella
Okay, so we’re not really sure when you would ever really need an Assyrian flag umbrella, unless you were inspired by this adorable engagement shoot. The only place we’ve managed to track these down is Nineveh Market, and we’ve just learned that the online shop is closing soon. While these umbrellas are only $5 a piece, they’re offering incredible deals with larger purchases, so consider sifting through their merchandise before it’s too late. Other items include wall plaques, hats, stickers, and the infamous Assyrian flag towel. Nineveh Market is filled with great stocking-stuffers. With so much to offer, you should have no problem meeting their $10 minimum order.


img_2414Assyrian Alphabet Blocks
Give the gift of language—this is one gift that is certain to have a lasting impact on the little one who unwraps it. These fun, educational blocks will spark smiles and interest in the Assyrian language. While Rinyo offers fantastic videos and apps, sometimes it’s nice to go the old fashioned route. For $40, you can deliver an invaluable gift this Christmas. Order now at LearnAssyrian.com.

juliabookAtwateh d-Lishani Atoraya by Julia Sorisho Rodgers
Since we’re talking about the kids, here’s another excellent option. Assyrian-American author and illustrator Julia Sorisho Rodgers has published two bilingual board books to help Assyrian children learn the ancient language. Both books are available on Amazon for $15. Don’t snooze—they’re almost sold out.

ya-alahaSymbolic “Ya Alaha” Car Decal
One of the easiest ways to spot an Assyrian on the road is with this beloved symbol. Assyrians are always unsure where they can grab one of these, and while they’re likely available at your local church, you can also order them online from Akitu Designs for just $10. Check out their website for different variations. Slip this decal into a stocking or a Christmas card for a new driver or perhaps your mom—moms love these. Akitu Designs also offers other products, such as adorable Assyrian-themed ceramic ornaments.

img_3221Assyrian Flag License Plate Cover
Here’s another AUAF product sold at The Ashurbanipal Library Store. Priced at $10, these aluminum license plate covers are one of our most popular items and make a great gift. If you’re not in the Chicagoland area, you can also grab a similar version for $20 from Akitu Designs. They also offer license plate frames.

img_1980Reforging a Forgotten History by Sargon George Donabed
In this increasingly digital age, books have become even more meaningful as gifts. Even better—you don’t have to worry about choosing the right size or their favorite color. But the best part about gifting a book? Most gifts will eventually be discarded, but a good book will last a lifetime. Sargon Donabed’s Reforging a Forgotten History is one of our newest favorites. Purchase copies on Amazon for $35.

wawKing Ashurbanipal Relief 
Waw Allap has the most extensive collection of Assyrian goods online and has been in business since 1991. This beautiful relief is priced at just $48 and would make a wonderful addition to any Assyrian home. Assyrian heritage sites have been vandalized and destroyed in the traditional homeland—this is one way to fight back. Browse their site for all sorts of gifts—from artifact replicas to apparel, and everything in between. To quote Waw Allap: “Live it, give it, wear it, share it.”


ornamentsHandmade Assyrian Ornaments

Best for last: These stunning Assyrian ornaments are handcrafted by an Assyrian woman living in California. Priced at $14 each, these ornaments will give any tree a unique touch. Don’t delay—she sells out every year. Mix and match ornaments with Assyrian flags, lamassus, chariots, and more.

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids their Assyrian Heritage

Date: November 10, 2016

Culture is a defining piece of an individual’s identity, shaping how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. Every community, cultural group or ethnic group has its own values, beliefs, and ways of living. Observable aspects of culture like food, clothing, celebrations, and religion are only parts of a person’s cultural heritage. The shared values, customs, and histories related to a culture shape the way a person thinks, behaves, and interprets the world. Cultural heritage serves as the thread that ties members of the group together and creates a sense of belonging.

As Assyrian families assimilate into the American way of life, many families gradually discard their cultural customs in favor of new traditions. The number of first- and second-generation Assyrian Americans continues to grow in the United States, and its important that they be taught their families’ heritage, in addition to their new country’s traditions. Here are some ways to teach your children about their heritage, even if you’re far from home:

  1. Start with the older generations. 

    Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members who are originally from the homeland can offer a wealth of information about culture and their native country. Suggest that your child—even the younger ones—interview these relatives, asking questions about where they grew up, the cultural foods they ate, the traditions they practiced, and the games they played, and the holidays they celebrated. Jedo and Nana would surely appreciate the interest, and likely have incredible stories to share. After the interview, discuss which of these traditions your family might be able to carry on. Here’s an interview we did earlier this year with an 83-year old Simele Massacre survivor. (Warning: You may need tissues.)

  2. Share traditional dishes. 

    One of the easiest ways to learn about a culture is to indulge in its most popular dishes. Try to incorporate Assyrian dishes into your family’s meals, if you don’t already. Teach your kids a favorite family recipe—you’re guaranteed to make memories that may last a lifetime. Find great recipes online at Assyrian Kitchen. Also, consider trying an Assyrian restaurant. As your kids enjoy the food, spend time talking about what distinguishes Assyrian cuisine from other foods. Larsa’s Mediterranean Restaurant is a local favorite.

  3. Attend Assyrian cultural events and visit local museums.

    Many Assyrian organizations in diaspora hold cultural events celebrating Assyria, often around special holidays like Akitu—the Assyrian New Year. These events provide the ideal opportunity for Assyrian children to learn about their culture as they dance to the music, try different foods, and see native costumes worn and on display. If you’re in the Chicago area, a trip to the Oriental Institute is a must: the Assyria Collection will leave any young one in awe of their history. Check out photos from our students’ recent field trip to the OI.

  4. Keep traditions alive. 

    It is possible to incorporate some popular Assyrian traditions for your family today. Research Assyrian cultural practices and identify those that might fit with your family’s lifestyle. Make Assyrian Martyrs Day mandatory in your household. Play Assyrian music in the car. Make kilecheh for Christmas every year. Try an Assyrian-themed arts and crafts activity around Akitu. The possibilities are endless.

  5. Use books and films to help educate. 

    Stop by the Ashurbanipal Library here at AUAF to find many books that can help teach children about Assyrian culture and history. There are books appropriate even for young children. Encourage your teenagers to choose books that focus on Assyrians—perhaps for their next school book report. We’ve also got a ton of DVDs, including informative documentaries—some are a bit dated, but still worthwhile. We’ve also got pretty much every Assyrian CD (and cassette tape!) ever released.

  6. Learn the language.

    Assyrians who’ve emigrated from the homeland are likely already teaching their children the Assyrian language. But kids in later generations may not learn the language of their ancestors. There are many benefits of learning other languages. Learning new languages makes children smarter and more creative, it helps them become more observant and perceptive, and of course, it fosters cultural understanding. Speak the language at home. Take advantage of wonderful resources like Rinyo or Julia Sorisho Rodgers‘s children’s books. Register your kids for a local Assyrian language class—they’ll probably fight you on this one, but they’ll thank you years from now. In Chicago, the Assyrian National Council of Illinois offers language courses for students of all ages.

Q&A with author Dr. Sargon Donabed

Date: September 27, 2016

Sargon Donabed recently published his newest book, Reforging a Forgotten HistoryHe completed his PhD at the department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto in 2010. 

Q: What inspired you to pursue Assyrian studies? 

Feeling that an injustice had been done and that I was duty-bound to correct it. That was the eternal optimist in me. The one who read too many fantasy novels about chivalry and honor and the like. I suppose I at times also like to swim upstream. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it is because most humans enjoy being contrarian at times. img_1979

Q: What does an average day look like for you at work? 

Well now that I am the chair of my department it is a gigantic disaster of emails. Walk, breakfast, play with my daughters (1 human, 2 feline), head to work, teach courses, answer more emails, come up with projects and ideas I may never have time to do, read TPS reports, speak with Bill Lumbergh, you know, the usual.

Q: What prompted you to author Reforging a Forgotten History? 

I wish I could say it began as something other than a thesis – but in reality that’s where it came from. So I suppose in a way I was forced to write it in order to graduate. At least the first rendition. But then I simply wanted the story to be available for people to read. And I wanted to challenge the academic status quo which has in the past shown little room for the inclusion of the Assyrian narrative/s.

Q: Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean by ‘forgotten history’? 

Essentially that the history has been forgotten. No one remembers it or even cares to remember it. Not scholars, politicians, nor in many cases the people themselves. But it was and is a part of the puzzle and necessary to make it more vivid and complete.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book? 

The personal stories. The emotional ties that one develops to the work and its subjects. It was quite draining at times. I must admit that in any such cerebral and emotional situation, it is good to have some kind of a physical outlet. Also meditation or contemplative prayer – including communing with nature in whatever form that takes – is a must to retain focus and conviction.

Q: Have you traveled to the homeland? What was it like? 

“Well, China’s in the heart, Jack. Wherever I go, she’s with me.” I have a difficult time with notions of home. Home to me is where my friends and family are – I have seen a frightening trend in the Assyrian community whersargondonabed5e there is now some kind of a formula that makes one Assyrian. And there are varying degrees. Today things are Iraq-centric, again to me an issue. So ‘homeland’ for many Assyrians means somewhere in Iraq. But it is the same with those from Tur Abdin or Gozarto or Urmia. Perhaps a bit less so but some of it still exists.

Q: Three words that come to mind when you hear the word Assyria

Neglect, politics, vision.

Q: What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the Assyrian diaspora? 

Integration and acceptance that the diaspora is also home. Everyone came from somewhere, someplace else – and I mean that in a holistic sense across the globe. Thus when you are home, what must you do? Take care of it. Your house, town, state/province whatever. Care for it like you would anyplace. I take issue with a homeland political focus that neglects places outside of the Middle East; neglects culture, and thus is against amalgams. It is a reality and any culture that is stagnant will die.

Furthermore, I hope people begin to support their children to follow their hearts in finding some type of work that moves them, makes them happy, gives them purpose. Not everyone finds such a place but to assume success is dictated by money or station or degree is sad. It takes a multitude of individuals doing a range of things to constitute a thriving ecosystem. When one segment is off, all suffer. It takes a village and all that, and certainly everyone in the village isn’t a doctor or a lawyer or a professor for that matter.

Q: Describe the Assyrian community in Boston. 


Assyrians of Eastern Massachusetts by Sargon Donabed and Ninos Donabed published in 2006.

There really isn’t a community in Boston anymore. In the early part of the 20th century there were Assyrians who had moved to the city, predominantly from Harput in the Ottoman Empire and later Turkish republic. But as the town was destroyed in WWI, the flow of immigrants stopped. Worcester, an hour from Boston, is a bit different and has a more continuous current. Unfortunately being Assyrian is a bit taboo among people who are adherents of the Syrian/Syriac Orthodox Church (formerly known as Assyrian Orthodox and earlier as Assyrian Apostolic Church of Antioch) who make up the majority of people in the state. It’s a disaster really, and when the church changed its name officially, the original settlers and their descendants went through real mental and emotional anguish. Imagine a religious institution telling its people they are not what they have identified as for ages? Then ridicule them and force them to either leave or simply be the butt of jokes and harassing. Sad and a major contribution to the Balkanization of the Assyrian community, especially in the USA.

Q: Is it important to you that your children speak Assyrian?

Language is an important and wonderful element of human culture. It is also a tool. It is not a necessity that one speak Assyrian to be Assyrian in my mind. But if one speaks Assyrian why not try and preserve it and help it grow? It would only seem logical to me that such is the case, especially as it gives to the beautiful tapestry of cultures around the globe.

Q: You are very passionate about animal rights as well as wildlife and environmental conservation. Can you explain what drew you to these important issues? 

I think it’s asinine to live in world with an infinite amount of life around us (and within/on us) on a daily basis and not realize we share this world, this existence with so many others. In a largely anthropocentric existence where in 20 years humans have actively destroyed 10% of the wild spaces on the planet I think it is the duty of humans to learn to be producers once more and not solely consumers. There must be a symbiosis of existence. And in an attempt to not lose sight of the trees for the forest, to understand that humans too are animals, and that just as the individual life matters, non-human animals are also individuals and are deserving of the same life, freedoms, and respect/reverence. I challenge everyone to try and lead a more compassionate existence of thinking beyond themselves. Tough in a society of me me me but I think it can and should be done.

sargondonabedQ: What are some of your hobbies? 

I have a deep love of martial arts and yoga. I have practiced Goju Ryu karate and White crane and Long Fist Kung Fu. For yoga, I am partial to ashtanga though I have practiced hot/Bikram and Kundalini at times. I love my volunteer work at the local animal shelter. It is kind of a home away from home. Enjoy hiking/camping, kayaking etc. Anything outdoors where you can smell the elements. I am also a big fan of fantasy books and film and love comic cons etc. So thankful to my folks that they wanted us to learn every sport possible, so my brother and I enjoy playing a variety of sports. Go with the season I suppose.

Q: So you’re a sports fan. Name your favorite teams.

Every Bostonian is – “They hate us cuz they aint us” – I mean it’s kind of life here. I am partial to the Pats, Celts and Bruins….but I must admit Fenway is a great venue on a summer day or evening.

Q: What’s your favorite quote? 

Oh I have so many. My mother has some doozies but I think I may try to patent them first. I hope I have some great ones one day. Here are a few:

Henry David Thoreau: “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

Tolkien: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-waututh Nation of Burrard Inlet, British Columbia: “If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other.”

Wendell Berry: “Care allows creatures to escape our explanations into their actual presence and their essential mystery. In taking care of fellow creatures, we acknowledge that they are not ours; we acknowledge that they belong to an order of harmony of which we ourselves are parts. To answer to the perpetual crisis of our presence in this abounding and dangerous world, we have only the perpetual obligation of care.

Tad Williams: “The Qanuc-folk of the snow-mantled Trollfells have a proverb. “He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder. The Qanuc have another saying: ‘Welcome stranger. The paths are treacherous today.”

Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to each other. Party on dudes.”

Oh so many. Most of the best of them I have found among fantasy authors from Robert Jordan to Steven Erikson and Raymond Feist.

Q: What are you most proud of about your work?


Dr. Donabed giving a lecture in Chicago.

That I could do something to help, something to honor my parents and grandparents but also my teachers and all that they had imparted to me through the years. The ‘me’ without them and their love and inspiration didn’t accomplish anything. Additionally, I like the fact that much of it flies in the face of what many take as canonical. It is a good thing to defend those who are defenseless.

Q: What are you working on next? 

I almost always have too many wild schemes I am working on. A general text on Assyrians. Some conferences. A fantasy novel. Trying to get a new shelter built in my town, some wildlife crossings up in important migration areas, having fun with my family and friends, and winning a fantasy football championship. Oh and opening a brewery/distillery/winery in a town called the Shire which is down the street from Rivendell where the pubs lack TVs and everybody knows your name.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your books? 

That stories are powerful. That we tell them to others and ourselves everyday. They shape our lives. Furthermore everyone and everything has one and every single one has meaning, has significance. Don’t ever forget that. In the microcosm, that the Assyrians matter. To steal another Tolkienism, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” – I would only add that I would define ‘person’ in the broadest sense possible.

Q: Where can people purchase your books? 

Most of the books are on Amazon. I am also working with some students to get a website built on sargondonabed.com, and I have an author page on Facebook. I generally loathe using social media…but for some things I must admit it has its uses I enjoy exploiting.

facebooklogo Follow Sargon on Facebook

Q&A with Nineveh Press founder Tomas Beth-Avdalla

Date: September 20, 2016

Tomas Bet-Avdalla is the founder of the Nineveh Press. The Nineveh Press publishes new books and reprints old and rare books and periodicals concerning Assyrian language, literature, history, and culture. 

Q: Where were you born? 

I was born in Augsburg, Germany, but I grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden. My parents are from Tur Abdin, Assyria.

Q: You are based in Sweden—what’s the Assyrian community like there?

The first group of Assyrians came to Sweden in 1967, and Assyrians today are a large minority group in the country. They come from different parts of the Middle East, and belong to different Assyrian churches. In Sweden, they live in most major cities, where they are organized in different local Assyrian associations and Assyrian churches. The Federation organizes most of these local associations, and Assyrian political parties are also represented in the country.

Q: Before we get into the Nineveh Press, can you tell us a little about your work with MARA? 


From the MARA archives.

The Modern Assyrian Research Archive (MARA) is a digital and physical archive founded in 2008 by doctoral students and academic professionals interested in Assyrian Studies. The aim of MARA is to locate, collect, and preserve source material and literature on the history, culture, and language of Assyrians from the nineteenth century onward. The source material is digitized and made available by MARA is comprised of images of unpublished documents and manuscripts, non-copyrighted publications, and audio recordings of oral sources collected all over the world. MARA’s goal is to compile the world’s largest digital and physical archive on Modern and Contemporary Assyrian culture by making use of extensive international private and professional networks.

I am one of the founders of MARA and have served as its project manager since its establishment. Our first years with MARA were funded, and I was able to work as an employee to carry out the work under the direction of MARA’s Advisory Board and MARA’s Foundation Board, but due to lack of funding in recent years, all of our work has been voluntary. I am currently the lead of our team of volunteers.

Q: What inspired you to establish the Nineveh Press?

Actually the same reason that I decided to get involved with MARA, and that is to take care of our modern Assyrian literary heritage and spread it. MARA has contributed to several now published books and articles, and I found it important to contribute to the Assyrian community and others and publish some important works.

Within Nineveh Press, I have established a book series called MARA Collected Texts, of which David B. Perley’s A Collection of Writings on Assyrians is the first book.

Q: How many books have you published so far? 

To date, I have published two books. The first book is a translation from Swedish into English of The Assyrians – From Nineveh to Södertälje, which is a short introduction to the Assyrians by the author Svante Lundgren. The second book is the collection of writings by David B. Perley A Collection of Writings on Assyrians, which I have edited. Occasionally some new titles and reprints from the publisher Beṯ-Froso & Beṯ-Prasa Nsibin are made available through Nineveh Press.


Published by the Nineveh Press.

Q: You’ve mentioned your new publication, A Collection of Writings on Assyrians a couple times now. Can you tell us more about it? 

David B. Perley was a prominent and prolific author who devoted his life to writing and to the Assyrian cause. The book is a compilation of Perley’s writings including articles, speeches and letters. By reading his numerous writings, I have learned a lot myself, received clarity on many issues, but above all, I have been strongly influenced by his straightforwardness, clear language, and affection to achieve something for the Assyrian nation through the written word.

I started compiling his writings years ago, feeling that the work of such a powerful writer must be published in a dignified manner. Up until now, his published works were only made available in several Assyrian magazines that are currently inaccessible to most. This project in total has taken me six years to complete. All of the effort and all of the work it has taken was worth it.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Assyrian Foundation of America for their support towards the printing of this book.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite author? 

It is difficult to choose just one, and therefore I will have to name several: Orhan Pamuk, Theodor Kallifatides, Naum Palak, Jan Guillou, and of course, David B. Perley.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you? 

I am a freelance graphic designer and work mainly with designing printed materials such as books, magazines, and flyers. Actually, with the Nineveh Press, I design all of the books myself. Most of my free time goes to MARA and the Nineveh Press—and of course to family and friends.

Q: So, what’s up next at the Nineveh Press? davidbperley

I am completing the second book in the book series MARA Collected Texts—a collection of the writings of Dr. Abraham K. Yoosuf. He was one of the Assyrian delegates to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Very interesting texts about the aftermath of the Assyrian Genocide during WWI will be published in this book.

Q: Picture the Nineveh Press ten years from now. What does it look like? 

Since establishing the Nineveh Press, I have received very positive feedback, and many have contacted me wanting to publish their works. It’s exciting, but it is important to be realistic and know that this activity is limited, especially when interest to read such texts is not so widespread. But I still hope to contribute to change that, and inspire them with new literature and knowledge of the Assyrians in modern times. I hope the Nineveh Press will spark an interest among today’s Assyrian youth.


Shipping out copies of the newest book published by Nineveh Press.

Q: Three words that come to mind when you hear the word Assyria

My native country—for me, as someone who has never lived there—is really more like a thought, a dream, and in the heart as opposed to a reality; but still no more than a reality for the drastically diminishing minority of Assyrians who remain there.

Q: Where can people purchase your books? Do you ship internationally? 

All books published by the Nineveh Press are made available through Lulu. Those interested should visit lulu.com/ninevehpress. When an order is placed through Lulu, the book is printed and shipped to the customer, wherever he or she resides. For more information, visit the official website: www.ninevehpress.com or send an email to info@ninevehpress.com. Follow the Nineveh Press on social media where you can receive the latest news, information, and inspiration.

 facebooklogo Follow the Nineveh Press on Facebook.
instaFollow the Nineveh Press on Instagram

Q&A with Children’s Books Author Julia Sorisho Rodgers

Date: August 15, 2016

Q: When did you know you wanted to write? 

A few years ago, I took my children to our local library in the Washington, D.C. area, and came across an international books section for young children. I flipped through bilingual books written in Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew. I was inspired by the collection and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to publish a bilingual Assyrian and English board book?”  I especially wanted to publish board books because my three children used to chew or rip every paperback book we owned.


Q: What attracted you to children’s books? 

I became a mom in 2010, and since then I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of children’s books with my little ones. Like many other parents, I believe that reading to young children can instill a lifelong love for reading and curiosity.  I was inspired by great writers and illustrators who seamlessly blend whimsy with beautiful art, particularly Eric Carle. He’s my favorite children’s writer and illustrator.



“My Assyrian Language Alphabet” by Julia Sorisho Rodgers

Q: Do you have a favorite among your own books? If so, which one and why? 

I really prefer my second book, Atwateh d-Lishani Atoraya. I worked harder at the illustrations. It’s bigger than the first book, and has over 20 illustrations.  I wanted to present the Assyrian Alphabet and corresponding words with images that children can relate to. For example, instead of painting a cross for the word “sleewa,” I painted an image of an Assyrian girl holding a Palm Sunday cross. I imagined that some parents would use the image as an opportunity to talk about Assyrian Christian traditions.  For the word “nooneh,” I painted clown fish thinking children might relate those images to “Finding Nemo.” I also included things children do, like build sandcastles, hold a teddy bear, kick a ball, and blow out birthday candles. I also tried to make some images countable.  Parents can help their kids count the geese, fish, apples, and zebras in the book and build basic math skills.


Q: When did you know you were an artist? 

I illustrate my books, but I definitely do not consider myself an artist.  I never obtained the training I’d need to refine my work. That is not a #humblebrag. Before I started, I did not know the difference between a filbert, a flat brush, or round brush. Often times I’d turn to YouTube and enter searches such as “how to paint skin tones” and “how to paint a beach scene.” I had to improvise and teach myself techniques late at night, after my kids went to bed.



Farm Animals by Julia Sorisho Rodgers

Q: What is the illustration process like? 

For me, it’s quite challenging, especially painting people and children realistically. I did not want to be too literal with my images, but I’m not a cartoonist either. I used Google image searches and perused stock photography to find images of kids, people, and animals that I think were interesting. My pictures are often a modification those images or a composite of many images. I used acrylics, colored pencils, and markers for the illustrations, and used Adobe InDesign to design the book.


Q: What comes first? The words or the pictures? 

For me, the concept comes first. I wrote Khaywate d-Khaqla (Farm Animals) because children have an inexplicable love for animals and the sounds they make. I also thought a classic alphabet book would be a great addition to an Assyrian child’s library. From there, I tried as much as possible to create a rhyme scheme in both books in order to make the books memorable and rhythmic.  I tried as much as possible to not torture our beautiful language. I enlisted the help of many linguists and experts (including Malpana Michael Younan of San Jose, California, and Dr. Alda Benjamen of Washington, D.C.) to fix practically every aspect of my writing – word choice, grammar, syntax, and usage.


Q: What part is more satisfying to you—writing or drawing? 

Definitely drawing. I wish I was a better Assyrian writer, but I definitely do not have the gift or ability to write the way I’d like to write in Assyrian: with whimsy and playfulness like authors such as Sandra Boynton or Dr. Seuss.


Q: What are you working on next? 

I am not sure yet. My relative encouraged me to write an Ancient Assyrian history book for children.  I think there’s a lot of potential in that idea.



Assyrian Alphabet puzzle available for purchase at the Ashurbanipal Library.

Q: What inspires you? 

There is a movement to create new and exciting products for the Assyrian children in diaspora, and I’m inspired by the creativity emerging from that movement.  Elaine Alkhas created a wonderful Assyrian Alphabet puzzle perfect for toddlers. It’s perfect for teaching fine motor skills.  Robert Oshana created an Assyrian Alphabet blocks set that can be used to teach both letters and vocabulary. My kids had a lot of fun playing with those blocks. Shameran Hanna published A Sailor Went to Sea, which is particularly great because proceeds support Christian genocide relief efforts in Iraq and Syria. Then you have an incredible array of apps and videos created by Rinyo, Base2Apps, and Ninos Warda. I am particularly fond of those products because they are fun, creative, and engaging.  In addition to publishing MoonSahraRomil Benyamino just published Benjamin and the Miniature Man. I’m looking forward to adding that book to our library!


Q: What impact do you hope your work will have? 

I hope more people join this movement to create new products for our children. We already spend a small fortune on Legos, Thomas the Train, American Girl dolls, and the like. We need Assyrian-themed toys like superheroes, princesses, and ninjas. We need an Assyrian “Bob the Builder.”


Q: Why do you feel it’s important for Assyrian children to learn their native language?

It’s tough to maintain bilingualism. It is very hard for me to speak Assyrian without making embarrassing mistakes. However, in publishing my books, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. Certainly, many “second gen” Assyrians are excellent in their reading and writing abilities, but many also share my struggles. Even though it can be hard to speak Assyrian regularly, I pray that we don’t give up. Our language is precious and beautiful. We have to dedicate the time to appreciate it and learn it so that it doesn’t become extinct.


Q: What does a typical day look like for you? 

I am a part-time consultant for a federal government agency (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).  When I’m not working, I enjoy the fun aspects of motherhood (i.e. building Hot Wheels tracks and ninja-fighting with my kids).  I also reluctantly tackle endless laundry and cooking and cleaning.


julia's gang

Julia’s boys.


Q: Do you read often? What is your all-time favorite book? 

Unfortunately, I do not read as much as I’d like to. The book I’m currently reading is by Dr. Sargon Donabed titled, Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century. My favorite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.


Q: What’s your favorite quote? 

It’s one of my favorite Bible passages: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:4-6


Q: How do you balance your identity as an Assyrian and an American? 

I think I balance my dual identity in a myriad of small ways. I try to cook Assyrian food so that my children are familiar with dishes like dolma and kubbeh. Two of my children have Assyrian first names. I published the bilingual Assyrian/English books to help young families teach their children Assyrian. I also hope that non-Assyrians use the book to learn our language. I try to support Assyrian political activism in Washington whenever possible.


Q: Three words that come to mind when you hear Assyria

“Strong” because of our endurance through almost every horrific tragedy. “Fragile” due to our current persecution, out-migration from our homeland, and destruction of precious historic and cultural sites. “Eternal” because I believe God has a divine plan for our people and will not abandon us.


farm animals

Farm Animals by Julia Sorisho Rodgers

Q: What are you most proud of about your work? 

A few years ago, the Skokie Public Library purchased a few copies of Khaywate d-Khaqla as part of an early childhood literacy partnership with area preschools. I was thrilled to know that SPL was that committed to serving the Assyrian-American population in this way. Also, I was happy to receive grant support for both books from the Naby-Frye Assyrian Fund For Culture (NFAFC). The fund helped defray printing and shipping costs, which tend to be relatively high for board book printing. Finally, I’m most thrilled when I get emails from parents who tell me their children like reading my book with their grandparents — those are wonderful memories to make.


Q: Where can people purchase your books? 

Both of my books are available on Amazon: Atwateh d-Lishani Atouraya and Khaywate d-Khaqla. For bulk orders, email me at assyrianbooks@gmail.com.


twitteric Follow Julia on Twitter