Two sisters eloquently share the story of love of family, love of culture and love of learning in a sweet children’s book called Baba’s Gift.
The essence of love, family, art, culture, and beauty are so intricately woven into this book written by Branson alums and sisters Ariana Amini '91 and Christina Amini '95. From its conception to its final production over a two decade period, the palpable spirit of all of these elements is encapsulated in this beautiful children's book.
Almost twenty years ago, when Ariana was pregnant with her first child, Toby, she had the idea to interview her father every week. Her intention was to capture and record her father’s extraordinary life over cups of tea, a traditional and daily social practice that is shared in community in Iran. She is so grateful for leaning into this tenderness. She had written poems about her father of her conversations with him over tea.
When her son Toby was just six months old, her father passed away suddenly. During this time, Ariana and her sister Christina wanted to hold onto their father’s legacy, so they wrote the first draft of what became Baba’s Gift. However, like many books-to-be, the draft then sat on a shelf for many years.
Fast forward to 2019: Ariana reconnected with a friend from her Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) program for creative writing, who said to her, “you need to share this with a publisher!”
Later that year, Ariana and Christina were offered a contract for the book from Little Bigfoot, the children’s imprint of the parent company Penguin Random House.
Christina, who is an editor for Chronicle Books, understands the intricacies of the publishing process and the importance around the timing of book releases. She recognizes that schools and librarians are in search of books about immigration and culture, now more than ever.
Moreover, Ariana and Christina, who are two of a total of six sisters, recognize this book as a “profound way to connect and honor our dad”, as their father wanted his daughters to remain close as a family, so this collaboration was a true gift.
The story of Baba’s Gift shares the story of how their father had left his family in Iran to pursue the "best possible education in America, to explore and to learn things." He studied at the University of California Berkeley and received his doctorate to pursue work as a psychologist.
This love of learning and meaning of family was espoused by the sisters who all continue to live in the Bay Area. Christina and Ariana joke that when friends would tell him how lucky he was to have all of his daughters live near him, he would say, “it’s not luck, I told them to!”
Ariana and Christina both attribute their love of learning and appreciation for literature to their time spent in classes at Branson. Christina recalls Jeff Symonds as her English teacher and one of her favorite teachers, who helped hone her love for writing. Christina pursued a major in English at Stanford with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Ariana recalls Stephanie Fisher and Rachel Eisler as phenomenal teachers where her love of English and writing was formative. Ariana studied at UC Davis in Dramatic Art with an emphasis on play writing. She also received an MFA in Creative Writing.
Baba’s Gift is a radiant celebration of their father’s legacy with beautiful illustrations by an award-winning Persian illustrator Elaheh Taherian who is from Tehran, where the Amini sisters’ father is from. A sacred story about the process is that when the publisher had approached Elaheh about the book, she had just lost her mother and then four months later, lost her father. Through this difficult time, she felt an even stronger purpose to illustrate this book and felt closer to the story. Elaheh turned to intricate details of cut collage, mixing watercolors as her medium. These beautiful and whimsical illustrations, along with her deep understanding of the meaning of family, love and loss is unmistakable within the beautiful pages of this book.
Baba’s Gift is available now in local bookstores. Get your copy today!
See the publisher's page on Baba’s Gift