Assyrian Stories

Joe Snell

Chicago

“I was at Whole Foods in 2011 taking an Italian cooking class and I realized that same day, why don’t I host these cooking classes and bring in Assyrian chefs and instructors to feature our cuisine. My background is in marketing and communications. It wasn’t in food, but I love food, I’ve grown up helping my mom and grandma in the kitchen. But I felt like I needed to do my part and have something that shares our narratives. And the easiest way to do that is through food. For me, Assyrian Kitchen is beyond food. Assyrian Kitchen is a celebration of our identity and the roots that we have to our land. And it’s a conversation, it’s more than just a meal. And it’s the people that you bring in to engage that really make that meal more meaningful.”

California

“I got into powerlifting after I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I wanted to lose weight and feel better about myself, especially growing up in California where everybody’s surfing and doing fitness stuff, so I hired a coach. He gave me some weights and after I lifted them with ease, he mentioned that I should consider powerlifting. I went home that same day, googled what it was and signed up for my first competition three months out. My dad loved the idea. My mom was a a little hesitant but now she’s my biggest cheerleader. At my events, she’s screaming and yelling in excitement. I think more Assyrian women should get into powerlifting. A lot of women are turned off by the idea because they think it’s going to make you look manly, but it actually makes you feel good about yourself and gives you a lot of body confidence.”

Washington

“I came to DC in 2008 to work as a lobbyist for an Assyrian organization. Most of the people who are working on Christian issues in the Middle East are not from that part of the world. And if non-Assyrians are driving the policy that affects Assyrians, we’re in trouble. Nobody else has skin in the game. Non-Assyrians can walk away at any time and it doesn’t affect the outcome of their existence. For us, it does. We can’t walk away. Our existence is on the line. If we’re not fighting for it, no one is going to. And no one is going to fight for us in a way that we can fight for ourselves.”

Virginia

“When I first became a mother, I found it really hard to be an Assyrian mom in Fairfax, Virginia because there weren’t too many other Assyrian moms I could connect with. So I really felt this pressure to connect my children to the Assyrian culture through books. When my kids were young, I would go to the library all of the time. One day I just saw all of these bilingual children’s books, Korean and Indian books and all of these cultures represented in bilingual books and I thought I really have to publish a children’s boook in Assyrian and English. That was my inspiration and I thought, ‘This is what I need to do while I’m a stay-at-home mom.’ Since then, I’ve received so much positive feedback from my books, people really appreciate that they are easy to read, easy to follow along with really colorful, bright pictures. It’s inspired an interest in connecting kids to the Assyrian alphabet at a young age. I’ve even had buyers from Louisiana and Idaho and Pennsylvania where there are small Assyrian communities.”