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Local refugee's memoir being used to teach course at CSI, University of Hawaii

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Posted at 5:53 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 10:05:01-04

MAGIC VALLEY — Liyah Babayan and her family were forced to leave Azerbaijan during the ongoing battle with Armenia. The family settled in the U.S. in 1992 when Liyah was just 10 years old.

Now, her book detailing her journey is being shared with students nationwide.

“I was unprepared for that. I was because my intention in sharing the memoir was to really provide context for my own family, for my own children," Babayan said.

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It all started last October after teachers reached out to Babayan, asking to use her book for their class, including a class at the College of Southern Idaho.

Her book is being taught at CSI, alongside the 1984 novel "The House on Mango Street."

“It was just really humbling to be in the same space with that author and being able to lend and highlight voices of displaced people," Babayan said.

"I'm pretty amazed that even though the birth of the book started in a small town in Idaho that it has reached corners of the nation that I don't network in and I don't have connections in and that it's making its path," Babayan said.

Babayan has collaborated with professors at the College of Southern Idaho and the University of Idaho as well as high school teachers nationwide to create a curriculum to teach students about migrants in the U.S.

“And also create a dialogue with these students and see what kind of conversations are missing in these spaces. Sometimes it’s as simple and as basic as understanding the difference between an immigrant and a displaced person, someone without status, and an immigrant and a refugee," Babayan said.

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She says she hopes this will help the students understand the difference between those words and the importance of using these terms correctly.

“The book, I think, is what helps students understand what the experience is like first hand, even one child’s, even just my own memoir, and one family’s experience and it helps them scale that out to research on their own," Bababyan said.

"I'm pretty amazed that even though the birth of the book started in a small town in Idaho that it has reached corners of the nation that I don't network in and I don't have connections in and that it's making its path."