Translated into English, Abetare means reader or primer. From a first glance, it would seem that this is just a mundane book for a foreign child. And yes, in a sense, it is. The Abetare is what Albanian children use to learn the Albanian alphabet and the basics of the Albanian language. However, as a first generation American, it holds a much deeper value to me and my family. Like so many immigrants, my parents came here to escape oppression and find opportunity. In the 1990’s, the political situation in Kosovo deteriorated significantly. With war between Kosovo and Serbia becoming imminent, my parents had no choice but to leave their homeland and venture to the United States, leaving behind their friends, family, and possessions. The Abetare holds so much value to me and my family because it’s a symbol the ongoing struggle to preserve the language of the Albanian American generations. As immigrants and first generation Americans, the first thing to go in terms of culture and heritage, is language. So, from an early age, I was pushed to memorize the Albanian alphabet, to always speak Albanian in the house, and to preserve the traditions my parents brought over from Kosovo. Today, I understand why my parents want me to hold on to the Abetare, and to pass it down to my children and my grandchildren. A big part of who we are is where we came from, and to forget that is to lose a part of oneself.
– Blendi M.