First, thanks to Travis for having me. I remember following blog links to his site ages ago, and I think he was in the middle of his department store Santa essays . . . and I thought, “This guy is like David Sedaris, only in a big, heterosexual Texan writer.” Love his voice!
And now I get to do a My Town Monday. My Town is New York City. I live in Virginia now, but you can take the girl out of New York—but not New York out of the girl. When it came time to write the Magickeepers, though, it was actually someone else’s My Town that was woven through the book.
My grandmother, Fanya (always known as “Fanny”) was born in Russia, in Rostov-on-Don. My entire life, she was not the warm, fuzzy grandmother, like my mom’s mother. She was this five-foot-tall Russian who frequently scolded and loved to stuff me full of food (and for the record, she was not a good cook). I didn’t really understand her particularly well. She didn’t do things like other grandmothers. We didn’t go to the park or even outside. She didn’t chit chat like other grandmothers beyond a cursory, “How’s school?”
When I got a little older, and could really begin to understand, I learned she had survived “the Revolution.” At that point, they only revolution I knew of had George Washington in it. Fanny was really old, and so it struck me as possible she and George had been friends. But instead it turned out that she had survived the Russian Revolution.
I could write a book on her experiences. But instead, I recall one story. My grandmother would sometimes sit down and play the piano—dark, complex pieces. And she was sitting on the piano bench when she told me about her town. Her family had been wealthy, and there was a young girl of 15 or so, who used to come and sing opera in people’s parlors.
“When the Communists came,” she said, practically spitting the word, “they took her, this beautiful songbird—her voice was so pure—into the public square and shot her in the head in front of everyone in our town. Her voice was ‘too expressive’ they said as they condemned her.”
It was then I started to understand Fanny better. What she had survived. Why she was darker and more distant. And I tucked away that story, like most writers. When I decided to write The Magickeepers, it was about a rogue clan of robber baron magicians who escaped Communist Russia and settled, eventually, in Las Vegas, where they hide their identities by having a casino and a stage show of illusions. And woven through the book is the idea of this Russian history—this “my town”—coloring every choice and every decision. The idea of bravery and destiny.
You may have a My Town that’s actually an ancestor’s town. Do you have inherited stories from before your time that still resonate as part of you?
And as always, check back for links to other MY TOWN MONDAY posts.