Modern First Library: Beyond the Borders of Imagination by Razieh Araghi

Over the next few months, we’ll be hearing from different community voices about what a Modern First Library means to them! Below, BookPeople bookseller Razieh Araghi talks about the importance of literature in translation. Read more from the series here.

When I think back to my childhood, I see myself in different characters of the books that I used to read or the colors in the paintings I used to draw. My mother always said whenever she was looking for me, she would find me in a corner of a room, either reading or painting. I was the last child in a crowded family of eight. I was blessed with siblings who taught me how to read from the age of three or four. Before that, it was my mother who entertained my enthusiasm for stories with her incredible storytelling skills.

I still remember vividly the old folktales she used to read to me at night. As a kid growing up in Iran, I was not exposed to European fairy tales, like those of the Brothers Grimm, but I learned about dragons, elves, and wizards from Turkish and Persian folktales for kids. I believe that one of the major factors that can help broaden a child’s world of imagination is translation. Translation brought new stories from different countries, such as Japan, France, Britain and so many others, into my own world of stories. I’ve always thought there should be more stories beyond what we are used to hearing, that there should be another horizon to all exciting stories.


I remember waiting impatiently for Friday nights, when my sister would read Heidi to me. After we were done with Heidi’s adventures in the Swiss mountains, it was time for fairy tales to start their magic in my life. Hans Christian Anderson, through his books translated into Farsi, told an Iranian girl about fairy tales other than the ones she had already learned from her mother. I laughed with the emperor’s folly and I was saddened by the Little Match Girl’s misery. From books, I learned that it does not matter where my friends are from, what language they speak or the color of they skin– they are my friends. I learned this lesson from a cute teddy bear named Pooh who had a warm, deep and beautiful friendship with a tiger, a kangaroo, a donkey, and a piggy. 9780060256654Thanks to the translators, I could jump on an adventure with Tintin, or touch the amazing world of The Little Prince. I still remember how I cried when I watched an animation of The Giving Tree, dubbed in Farsi, and consequently appreciated every tree like a dearest friend after reading the book.

One of the best experiences that I have had so far as a bookseller was when I told a mother we have a section of Spanish books for kids. She was over the moon to find many books in Spanish to read to her kids. As a bookseller who works in a bookstore with an amazing section for kids, including our Modern First Library section, I always wonder if one day I could translate some of these English books to Farsi. I want to share the joy of reading an amazing book with the children of my own country.

Razieh recommends:

Razieh Araghi was born in Tabriz, Iran. She received her B.A. in English Literature in Iran and moved to the United States in 2015. She is currently a graduate student at Texas State University, studying English Literature and working on comparative research about American and Iranian’s women’s rights in the 20th century. Araghi speaks Turkish, Farsi, English, and French, and volunteers teaching English to refugees.

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