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Karen Ajamian Smaldone

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Karen Ajamian Smaldone
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 6 March 2016
Interview Settings: Manhasset, NY
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(Start of Interview)

0:04
GS: My name is Gregory Smaldone. I am an interviewer at the University of Binghamton, history department, here to interview Karen Ajamian Smaldone for an Armenian Oral History Project. Can you please tell us your name and your basic biographical information for the record?

0:19
KS: I am Karen Ajamian Smaldone. I am fifty-nine years old. I was born to parents who were first generation American. They were from eastern Turkey. , I am sorry, their parents were from eastern Turkey and immigrated to the United States in the early (19)20s. My parents spoke fluent Armenian in their childhood homes.

0:51
GS: That is fine for now, we will get to those ̶

0:53
KS: Okay.

0:53
GS: What was ̶ your parents were both ethnic Armenians?

0:58
KS: They were.

1:00
GS: Okay. What is your highest level of education, your occupation, your marital status ̶ children that you have, their genders? Tell us about your family, your life.

1:11
KS: I am married for thirty-seven years. I have three children; their ages are twenty-seven, twenty-four and twenty-one.

1:18
GS: Their genders?

1:20
KS: Twenty-seven is a female, twenty-four is a male, twenty-one is a female. My highest level of education is a Master’s degree. I am a retired public school music teacher and I am now an adjunct professor in music education department at Queens College CUNY University of New York.

1:39
GS: What is your spouse's ethnicity?

1:42
KS: My spouse is a third generation American. His ancestral background is Italian and Irish.

1:50
GS: What were your roles and responsibilities in your home and what were those of your spouse's?

1:58
KS: As a child?

1:59
GS: As an adult.

2:00
KS: As an adult ̶ My spouse and I had very equal roles. We both worked and contributed to the household income. We co-parented our children. I would say more or less maybe 75 percent – 60 percent me, and 40 percent him based on our schedules. My husband is a professor of Music so as such; his daily schedule could be modified.

2:36
GS: Okay, thank you. Tell us about your parents, their ̶ what were their occupations?

2:41
KS: So my mother, before she got married, was a secretary. Apparently she was a very above average student in high school, but was not given the opportunity to attend college. She was born in 1924. She was an executive secretary. Then was a homemaker for about five years and then went back to work were we lived in Union City, New Jersey, and she worked in the mayor's office as an executive secretary.

3:27
GS: What was your parents or your father's occupation?

3:30
KS: My father was about twelve to fifteen years older than my mother. He was a lawyer. He was a councilman in New Jersey and was on the New Jersey state senate.

3:46
GS: Okay. What were your parent's role in the house?

3:53
KS: My father died when I was three and a half but prior to that the roles in the home were, from what I understand, very traditional with my mother being home full time and my father working. Once my father passed away my mother took small part-time jobs such as typing labels, she would bring labels into the home, type up the address labels and then deliver them back to the company. Once I was in fourth grade and my twin sister and brother were in first grade, that was when she went back to work full time in the mayor's office in city hall and they afforded her school hours so basically nine to four so she could be home at night for her children.

4:47
GS: What were the circumstances that prompted your ancestors leaving their homeland to come to America?

4:55
KS: My mother's mother was a victim of the Armenian genocide and her father, my great grandfather had some political connections and was able to allow my grandmother to be taken out of eastern Turkey out of harm's way and into an orphanage. Maybe at the age of eight, and she was brought to America by other family members in the early (19)20s to what has never been said but in my opinion was an arranged marriage. She married my grandfather and they had four girls together. My grandfather was about twelve years older than her. His family came to America with him; he was born in eastern Turkey the very late 1800s. We actually have the ship manifest. Although it has never been said, my cousins and I, our generation, suspect that my grandfather most likely had a wife and possibly children in Turkey that he either left, or lost; we are really not sure, and then came to America and established a new life and then married my grandmother.

6:39
GS: Okay. What are your childhood memories such as your kinship group, and what your goals and aspirations were?

6:51
KS: So the childhood, the absence of the father in the home, made us unique in the early (19)60s. My father died in 1960. But we ̶ there was a very strong sense of a family in both local community and the Armenian community. Church and religion was a very important part of my mother's upbringing and when we were young, say, under the age of five, my mother took my sister, brother and I, to a local reform church, so some sort of Protestant of non-denominational type of thing, which was literally less than a block from our house and we attended Sunday school there, nursery Sunday school and services because the Armenian Church was about, I would say, about eight miles away and my mother did not drive. Now that Armenian Church, her father, my grandfather, was a founding member in the (19)40s. So it is a very important church to her. When I was in early elementary school, the priest from that church was ̶ took notice, and wanted to rectify the situation that my mother, the daughter of a founding father of the church, was not able to attend services because she did not drive and she had three young children. So the priest arranged to have a family who lived near us to pick us up every Sunday and take us to church and to Sunday school, bring us home. There was also on Saturday an Armenian language day school that the church ran and they actually ran a school bus for that so my sister and brother and I, very reluctantly and not happily, went off to Armenian language school.

9:13
GS: How long did you attend?

9:15
KS: I would say about four or five years.

9:16
GS: And it was you and your siblings? Was there anyone else that you knew, that you attended with?

09:22
KS: A lot of the people from Sunday school, a lot of the other children from Sunday school were there but ̶

09:26
GS: How important was it within your community to attend an Armenian language school?

9:33
KS: At that time it was very important. So there were a lot of, American children, American born children, like myself, second generation Americans, when we got to Sunday school, what we were finding is that there were a lot of first-generation children who were fluent because Armenian was the only language that was spoken at home, and there was always this divide that, you know, why are these kids in language school when they're fluent and again you are talking about the 1960s, there was no real educational strategies being employed. So it was the kids who could speak and the kids who could not speak and honestly, you know, other than a few vocabulary words, I never learned to speak. Today, fifty years later, in the Armenian community that I live in, Nassau county, Long Island, there is an Armenian day school still on Saturdays and I would have to say that 95 percent of those children again are fluent and the possibly really not assimilating into American society. Most, for my own children for instance, we did not subject them to Saturday language school because they are completely immersed in the American way of life, with, you know, Saturday sports, CYO, piano lessons, etc.

11:18
GS: Alright, we will come back to this. When you were a child, how important was it within your family that you attended Armenian language school and learn the Armenian language?

11:27
KS: It was important but there are eleven first cousins on my mother's side of the family and I am amongst the four youngest. So my older cousins who are seven, six, five, four, three years older than me, most of them lived with either our grandmother or a grandparent from their father's side of the family and those children, because grandparents were in the home, primarily speaking Armenian. My older cousins were fluent. In fact my older cousins, who are now sixty-seven and sixty-six, went to kindergarten not speaking any English.

12:19
GS: How would you describe the Armenian community in general growing up, where were the social spaces? How important was the home? How important was the church?

12:32
KS: So all those things were one and the same; the church, the home, the social spaces. If we were going to an Armenian teenage dance, the Armenian equivalent of the catholic CYO, ACYOA: the Armenian Christian Youth organization. If we were going to an Armenian dance no questions were ever asked. If I was going to a high school dance, that was a different story. All of my Armenian peers, we went to language school, we went to the youth group ACYOA, we went to Sunday school, and we went to Armenian camp. Camp Nubar was established in 1963, and it was established by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, AGBU. And immediately it became an extremely popular camp and the camp was immersed with, you know, Armenian language, Armenian dancing, Armenian cooking, but the Armenians are big assimilators and therefore there were horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, camp craft. Again, I attended Armenian camp for two weeks when I was 8 years old, sleep away camp which was unheard of but it was "okay" because it was Armenian camp and my cousins were there and my mother new the director and everybody knew everybody.

14:24
GS: What was the nature of your associations with non-Armenians as a child?

14:30
KS: My neighborhood kids, neighborhood friends were not Armenian, almost all of them were Catholic and definitely the question was always, you know, what are you ̶ I am Armenian, what is Armenian ̶ and my answer would be: Oh it is almost like Greek. The neighborhood was very catholic. All my friends went to confession on Saturdays. They went to mass on Sundays, you know, first communions, confirmations, catholic holidays, celebrated in school, and nobody ever knew what Armenians were ̶ I forgot the question.

15:18
GS: We were just talking about your relationship with non-Armenians as a child.

15:23
KS: So yeah, so I had neighborhood friends and to this day I talk about my childhood girlfriends, my high school girlfriends, my Armenian friends, my Armenian friends from camp my Armenian friends from church so ̶

15:41
GS: So they were kind of ̶ they were worlds apart, you had your Armenian friends and you had your non-Armenian friends?

15:46
KS: They were definitely worlds apart, and, you know, fast forward to this point in time, my "childhood friends" know of my Armenian friends from childhood and vice versa but they still do not interact. Where this becomes ̶ where the story changes a little bit, I live in Manhasset, which has a very large Armenian population. There are many people my age and we raised our children going to Sunday school in the Armenian church, now our children are young adults, and living in Manhasset so now these "Armenian friends" are also friends with my neighbors and other community members so there’s kind of blending but we are still kind of known as ̶ oh, you know ̶ Alexis from church, you know, Lorry from church, she is my Armenian friend, do you know so and so, she is Armenian.

16:51
GS: Would you say ̶ your experience growing up, where you had a separation between your Armenian and your non Armenian friends? Do you think that was typical of the Armenian people you grew up with or was this more something personal for you?

17:05
KS: No ̶ if there were families where the children where first generation, again I am second generation, they were very separated from the daily life in Union City. So, here is a silly story, but it is something that resonates with me. People of the Middle East are very fond of yoghurt. So now were talking 1965, 1966, the yoghurt craze that America's experiencing now did not exist. If you needed yoghurt, you got a small four or six ounce container in the supermarket and you made your own yoghurt at home not in the salt in yoghurt maker, but over the stove, with milk and the yoghurt that you bought in the store is the starter, it is the mother. And my mother, every single week, we had a mayonnaise jar, empty mayonnaise jar, wrapped in a bath towel, sitting over the pilot on the stove to keep the ̶ I do not know what the word is called ̶ to cure the yoghurt okay, and that was how we had yoghurt, and my friends just could not like the yoghurt ̶ what the hell ̶ they just could not understand it ̶

18:32
GS: Your non-Armenian friends?

18:33
KS: My non-Armenian friends.

18:34
GS: Your Armenian friends, did they have similar experiences with yoghurt?

18:38
KS: Worse. my Armenian friends who was first generation American, yeah, first generation, maybe she was even an immigrant, I do not even know, when she heard that my mother was going to the store to buy the starter yoghurt, she said ̶ oh no, no, no, no ̶ We only get ̶ if we do not have starter yoghurt in our own home, we only go to somebody else’s home and borrow their starter.[laughs] I am like you cannot make this stuff up.[laughter] And then I felt like a lesser Armenian because my mother used ̶ you know.

19:12
GS: Store bought yoghurt. What traditions and customs from your parents' home are most important for you to maintain and why, and if there are any, what are the challenges involved in this?

19:28
KS: So the cooking, obviously with any ethnic group, is very significant, there were, you know, specialty recipes that were associated with certain holidays

19:40
GS: Could you name a few?

19:41
KS: Sure. There is a çörek, which is a yeast bread, egg bread, almost like a challah and that is like the Greeks that is affiliated with Easter. It is a tedious, day long process where you are making the dough, proofing it, letting it rise, punch it down, let it rise again, form it into loaves, let the loaves rise and then bake it. It is delicious, um big big, big process. There is myriad recipes made with filo dough which has to be number four filo dough and you have to buy it fresh from a Mid-Eastern or Armenian or God Forbid Turkish grocery store. You do not want to get your filo dough frozen from the local supermarket. That is a big no-no, um filo dough is turned into myriad desserts that is kind of becoming international now such as baklava or burma which is just crushed walnuts and some spices, sugar and water, honey and water. Filo dough is also turned into cheese börek which is kind of typical of a Greek spanakopita, filled with a variety of cheeses, this has become an Americanized recipe because my mother and her generation used cream cheese and Muenster cheese which obviously was not available in Eastern Turkey. It has been told that they use pot cheese, some sort of cottage cheese type of mix, but Armenian-Americans are big with the cream cheese and Muenster cheese.

21:57
GS: What are the challenges involved in maintaining these traditions?

22:02
KS: Well, they are very time consuming, but I do not think it is unique to the Armenian people, you look at the Italians who celebrate the seven fishes on Christmas eve, and that’s an extremely time intensive task. But yeah, they are time consuming, and sometimes the ingredients are not readily available. I think there is more acceptance and more interest in other cultures now so if you have American guests in your home, they are interested in dishes from your ethnic heritage as opposed to when I was a child in the (19)60s where you went, um you know, if I had an American friend come to my house and there was an Armenian dinner on the table, those foods would be very foreign to those children. So that kind, you know, with our worldwide assimilation of food all over the place, it has become a lot easier, it is not even a challenge it has become easier to share the foods. The other traditions um, our Christmas is January 6th, it is not December 25th. Did I ever take a day off from work to go to church on "Armenian Christmas"? No. Many people do. Christmas, December 25th, the Armenians refer to as American Christmas, but there is not one Armenian that I know that does not celebrate December 25th.

23:57
GS: Was this true growing up?

24:00
KS: It was also true growing up, again big assimilators, but you know.

24:05
GS: Was January 6th heavily celebrated within your community?

24:09
KS: It was celebrated in church.

24:11
GS: Church, but it was not.

24:12
KS: I did not get extra presents or anything like that.

24:15
GS: But like you said before there is very little difference between the home, the church and the social space.

24:18
KS: That’s right.

24:19
GS: Would you say this kind of holds for January 6th? Would you say that people in the community saw the January 6th church services as just the church keeping a church holiday alive or did they see it as the community's time to celebrate their Christmas?

24:38
KS: It is a religious holiday. It is a day of religious obligations they take it very seriously.

24:43
GS: So it was a church holiday but church holidays are taken seriously?

24:48
KS: Yes

24:48
GS: Okay, Thank you. Um, how were your parents cared for as they aged?

24:54
KS: My father died suddenly when I was young, so that ended that. My mother remarried. My stepfather died at the age seventy-nine. He did not require um, well, he was seventy-nine, my mother was seventy-five so he did not really, yeah it was not difficult to take care of him and also he died rather quickly. My mother on the other hand, lived to the age of eighty-eight and the last three years of her life were extremely challenging. The last eleven months of her life, as she had fallen, broken her hip, lost oxygen in the hospital, never really recovered. So she was taken care of by twenty-four hour day care which was extremely expensive but ̶

25:51
GS: Where was this care?

25:52
KS: The care was primarily, the first four months was in my home, in my living room. We moved everything out, we put a hospital bed in, all of my children participated. I had neighbors that came and checked in on her and my mother had moved after my stepfather died. She sold the house and moved to ̶ she rented a house about a block and a half away from me. And we moved her back there with her twenty-four hour care with the intent of refinishing our first floor den so she can come back here, but then when she went back to her apartment her condition worsened. It became very clear that she was not going to live much longer and we did not disrupt her again so she was in her apartment and my children and my husband and myself and my neighbors you know, who would, because I worked, some of my neighbors would stop in ̶

27:10
GS: Was it only your Armenian neighbors who stopped in?

27:13
KS: Nope, not only Armenian neighbors. Everyone stopped in. And this went on for about eight months before she passed away.

27:26
GS: What levels of education have your children achieved and what are their occupations and where do they live?

27:37
KS: My oldest daughter, Loris, twenty-seven years old. She has a Master’s degree and she is a teacher in New York City and she lives in New Nork city in a rented apartment and she completely supports herself. We do not support her. My son is about to receive his Master’s degree in History and he has been, I would say, 90 percent financially self-sufficient for the last two years. My youngest daughter Julia is twenty-one. She is graduating from college this May. And has very strong desire to become fully employed and save some money and move out in eighteen months.

28:28
GS: Was it important to you, and is it still important to you now that your children marry Armenians?

28:36
KS: No. because I did not marry an Armenian and my mother did not have a hard time with that. Some of my friends, second generation Americans, actually married immigrants which we lovingly call OTB's, off the boaters and their lives ̶ one, two- I could think of three girlfriends who married men from "the other side" and the other side now could be, you know, Armenians living in Diaspora and Egypt, Israel, variety of places, and those girlfriends, their homes, became Armenian to the second power. Okay, so it was kind of reinforced by marrying somebody from the other side and again the language is heavier use the Armenian language in their homes, and the cultures and the food and what have you. But my mother never put any pressure on me to marry an Armenian. I got married very young, I exposed my children to the Armenian communities. My older daughter actually was probably the most socially involved, through her friends, through both Sunday school and Camp Nubar which still going strong. She did have an Armenian boyfriend for a while, and after they broke up, it is almost like he got the Armenians in the divorce and she kind of pulled away from that group and is now dating somebody who is not Armenian. So, you know, it would be great but ̶

30:39
GS: So you say it is something you actively want but it is not something you would ever put pressure on.

30:43
KS: Never.

30:43
GS: Okay. What would you identify as your homeland?

30:49
KS: New Jersey. That is where I grew up.

30:54
GS: What are your thoughts about gender roles in society today?

31:02
KS: So, obviously in, you know, lily white two-parent homes, America in 1960, that was a model that my family did not fit. It was very important for my mother. You know. I am a musician but I remember her saying that she wanted me to know how to play the piano so that someday if I needed to work to support myself or my children, I would have a skill that I could do in my home like teaching piano lessons as opposed to her who had to bring labels in to type. Raising my children in an affluent suburban neighborhood, my neighbors are either comprised of stay-at-home mothers with husbands that work or high powered women with big jobs in the city, lawyers, some doctors, bankers which brings lots of money into the house and lots of help, full-time help, live-in nannies. So with me being a school teacher and working outside the home, I really did not really fit the mold where I live. Again what was the question? What are my views? and now it is changing, its changing, the society is changing, everybody is changing not so much in Manhasset, I do not know where the economic bubble was, did not seem to hit here so I see much younger, you know, whole new generation of very young women who do not work and their husbands do the wall street run but I know that when I taught in the public schools they worked. Within my thirty-four years as I started teaching in 1978 there were many women who had children and never came back to work. And I would say in the last ten to twelve years that model really changed. These young women, I call them the young girls at work, having their babies, they are back in, like, eight weeks, babies are in day care so the world really is changing you know. The two parent income model seems to be more of a necessity than it ever was before.

33:46
GS: Do you think it is important for women to stay home with their children after they were born?

33:57
KS: I think it is important. I think people have a strong desire to do whatever it is that is necessary. I had the support of my mother and my stepfather when my children were little. They shared in the daytime care giving. I also was fortunate enough to have a woman, an Armenian, from our church, who was a daytime care giver for the kids. You know, kids do not raise themselves, so, I do not think I could have followed the model of a banker mother who, you know, travelled three days out of the week and left the child home with a sleeping ,live-in nanny.

34:54
GS: What is it about yourself that you might say makes you most Armenian?

35:05
KS: I think it is just, you know, it is just who I am, it is just it is ingrained, it is my church, it is my religion, it is the friends, the people.

35:18
GS: Do you attend church regularly?

35:20
KS: I do not. I play the organ at my church from time to time. Now that I am semi-retired, I do more volunteering at the church and you know, going there and working at the picnic or working at the food fair where women my age, you know, I grew up with and our moms knew one another most of our moms are not with us anymore and there’s just that kind of community and that thread and when I am at church and doing things for the church, I really feel my mother. You know, I am walking her walk, I am doing exactly what she did.

36:14
GS: Have you ever travelled to Armenia or Turkey?

36:18
KS: No. And there is a huge um, since Armenia itself has been liberated from former Soviet Union, there has been a huge travel and tourist industry that has come up in that area most of it in the capital city of Yerevan. There is extreme poverty in Armenia and my Armenian-American friends who have gone say it is nothing like what we think of as Armenian. It is the language, the dialect is different than the Armenian that is spoken in the United States, the foods are a little bit different, the Armenians in Armenia are not very religious or not practicing religious, so what has happened here in America in the one hundred years since the genocide began, I think people who came here from Eastern Turkey, again, religious freedom, was a big thing, and they came here and they established churches, and as a result, community sprung up around those churches. That does not seem to be the case in the land of Armenia and, you know, its everyone’s dirty secret that I am Turkish of Armenian descent, but that is what we were.

37:56
GS: What do you mean by "everyone’s dirty little secret"?

37:58
KS: Well because we would you know the Armenians do not want to associate themselves with the Turkish but our, my grandmother was born in Turkey. My grandfather was born in Turkey.

38:08
GS: Dirty little secret among the Armenian community growing up.

38:11
KS: Yes.

38:12
GS: And this was as distinguished from the rest of the community who saw itself as Armenia?

38:17
KS: We just you know, we are Armenian, that was it, but it was not until like maybe ten or fifteen years ago that we started saying well our ancestors were from Eastern Turkey but again the borders, you know, those borders were changing all the time.

38:36
GS: So it was not as if it was a secret, gossip among the community.

38:42
KS: no, no, no, no, no, no.

38:43
GS: it was within your own family?

38:45
KS: Yeah within the family.

38:46
GS: how important is the preservation of your family's stories, the memories, and their thoughts?

38:51
KS: Well I think the preservation of anybody’s history is very important, and people with ancestory.com and what have you their flocking all over the place now to secure this history and figure out where their ancestors come from. One of the things that has come up in the Armenian community is, it is very hard for first and second generation American-Armenians to trace their roots because there are no records. So it is not like you are going to England and doing historical, ancestral research. My husband's family, the Italian side, he has a cousin who is gone to southern Italy and looked through the baptism records of the church and has traced their family back to the mid-19th century but apparently these Turkey is not so one. It is not so user-friendly, two. These records do not exist, everything was destroyed.

40:10
GS: How do you view a Diaspora? Was it an accident of history or an evil or a good?

40:19
KS: Well, I think the world today is one big diaspora, everyone is everywhere and these borders are really blending when you look at the area of Flushing Queens, New York, where the Mets play and it has been designated the new China town, there are more Chinese and Koreans living in this area than there are in the formerly known China Town in Manhattan, and this area of Flushing was populated by the Dutch in the 1800 and early 1900s and then there was a huge Jewish influx in around world war II, and it remained like that until the (19)80s and those Jewish people kind of aged out and left and the Asians came in and you go down to Flushing there is no English being spoken. So the diaspora it is happening where I grew up in Union City New Jersey, huge influx of Cubans during my childhood, (19)60s, (19)70s and now it is, I do not know the exact number but it is a very, very large percentage.

42:06
GS: Do you think that the Diaspora has its own identity and do you think that the diaspora is a temporary thing, you know, seeking to go back to the homeland or do you think it’s its own entity in and of itself?

42:18
KS: No, I think it is become its own entity in and of itself and you know Armenians are their own worst enemy because I heard in my interview talking about the American-Armenians and the off-the -boaters, and even they do not seem to blend.

42:35
GS: So there is not a single diaspora identity, there are multiple identities within the diaspora?

42:40
KS: Yes.

42:41
GS: Do you think that even despite this separation of identities there is a unity within the diaspora?

42:53
KS: Again we are getting back to the church and the culture and language, so yeah, that unity does exist, and I think because it is a small population, we are nothing next to the Jewish immigrants, we are nothing obviously next to the Asian immigrants, so my husband always said there is an Armenian hiding under every rock. It is not unusual to, so and so went to college in California and her roommate's Armenian. Do you know her? Well, you know it is like literally one to two degrees of separation. You can always draw a straight line between two Armenians, but again I think that is because the community, not the community, the actual numbers are small so.

43:49
GS: Do you think that Armenian organizations within America are attracting the American-born?

44:01
KS: Armenian organizations yeah, I mean, there are so a big movement now is to kind of a habitat for humanity for Armenians, building homes, building schools in Armenia. This building is spearheaded by American groups. It is very popular for families, Armenian-American families to go for instance, like my husband and I would go and bring our three children and we would go for a month and build houses and then do some touring and then come home and do a fundraiser event. That is happening, are people coming here? Are we trying to bring people here? I cannot really answer that, I know for a while it was fairly simple to adopt a child from an Armenian orphanage but it is getting harder politically, I do not really know why, it is not as easy to do that anymore.

45:16
GS: Okay. Would you define yourself as an American, Armenian, American-Armenian, Armenian-American or some other moniker? What do you tell people when they ask you?

45:34
KS: Well, who is asking?

45:36
GS: It depends who asks.

45:37
KS: Right. I mean, if I am in Italy on vacation, somebody says "where are you from?" I am going to say "America".

45:44
GS: So when you are abroad you are an American, but when you are in America what are you?

45:48
KS: But also in Italy which I have been to many, many times, because my husband actually worked there, when the conversation went a little bit beyond into "are you American?" often the Italians would comment on my appearance, you know, dark hair, dark eyes, and I would say I am Armenian amen, amen, amen so they knew, so that, you know. Second question then I would say I am Armenian. Armenians are viewed very favorably all over the world except for ̶

46:23
GS: How do you define yourself here?

46:26
KS: You know I even tell my students, my college students last year ̶ the Armenian genocide was celebrating, celebrating? Commemorating it is one hundredth year anniversary. There was big to do stand in Washington DC, I took two days off from work to go. And I said to my college students you know going to this thing. I was born in America, but I am Armenian. What is an Armenian? And there it goes.

46:51
GS: So what do you identify as?

46:53
KS: American-Armenian. Answer the question, [laughs]

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

6 March 2016

Interviewer

Gregory Smaldone

Interviewee

Karen Ajamian Smaldone

Biographical Text

Karen is a second generation Armenian-American with grandparents that immigrated from eastern Turkey in 1920. She currently resides with her husband and three kids in Manhasset and teaches at Queens College. Karen holds a Bachelor's degree in Music and an Master's degree in Special Education, both from Queens College, CUNY.

Duration

47:00

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format

Audio

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as Armenian Oral History Project, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries for more information.

Keywords

Armenian; Eastern Turkey; New Jersey; second generation; Armenian Diaspora; Armenian culture; Armenian church; Armenian camp; Sunday School

Files

Citation

“Karen Ajamian Smaldone,” Digital Collections, accessed February 7, 2023, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/627.