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Zabel Yessayan: In the Gardens of Silihdar

Judith Saryan

Reflections on Yessayan's early years and the influences that shaped her as a writer and activist.

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February 2018


Zabel Yessayan: In the Gardens of Silihdar

Author, educator and activist, Zabel Yessayan (1878-1943), came of age in the Armenian community of Constantinople at the end of the nineteenth century. Her fierce sense of justice and determination to succeed in the literary world were evident even in her youth, and Zabel would grow up to become one of her community’s leading voices for social justice and women’s rights. In this video, Judith Saryan describes Zabel’s childhood and early years and the influences that shaped her as a writer, an activist and, in many ways, a woman ahead or her time. The title of the video in inspired by Yessayan’s 1935 memoir, The Gardens of Silihdar, a poignant narrative of her childhood and a vivid account of Armenian community life in Constantinople at the end of the nineteenth century.


Judith Saryan embarked on a career in publishing, editing and writing after 37 years in finance. In partnership with the Armenian International Women's Association (AIWA), she helped to publish three works in English translation by Zabel Yessayan. Ms. Saryan also recently started a blog, where one of her recent entries entitled The Swallow is about her grandmother who was a refugee in Syria.