When you put out the call to authors who have unique stories to tell, be prepared for the unexpected. This is especially true for historical-fantasy “mashups”. These can be fabulous and inventive (Think Naomi Novik’s Dragon/Napoleonic War series). Of course the line between mashup and car wreck is pretty subjective, so it’s a risky proposition (“It’s Harry Potter set in the Civil War and Hogwarts is in Arkansas…”). Still, the imagination and talent required to pull off such a trick is impressive. Even when it doesn’t work, sometimes the “what if” of it all makes the read worthwhile.
Full disclosure, I haven’t read Mirta Ines Trupp’s “Becoming Malka,” but when it takes the real history of a Russian/Jewish/Argentine family and mixes in time travel and mysticism, that’s some chutzpa/valentia/khrabrost’/nerve right there. I had to talk to her.
Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.
In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Thank you for inviting me, Wayne. I am delighted to participate in this interview! “Becoming Malka” is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find twenty-four year old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Being methodical and meticulous, she is not one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research and so; she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life- and knowing, full well the fate that awaits her ancestors- Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.
One reader expressed it best, I think, when she said that “Becoming Malka” on the surface appears to be a “modern-day fairytale, but there are layers of serious subjects to investigate and discuss i.e. Russian history, the debate of Jewish Enlightenment, Kabbalah and Jewish immigration to Argentina.” I would add that the Molly’s introspection- realizing her own strengths and value and how she fits into her familial evolution- speak to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth.
You get major points for originality (historical fiction with no Tudors or honorable Confederate soldiers in sight, who knew?)What is it about that time period or story that intrigued you?
Ah- great question! I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Here I was, an avid fan of Historical Fiction and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- however; I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading- “Daniel Deronda” comes to mind, as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association.
Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia, and conversely, I wanted to write about their emigration to Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add a speculative dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would!
Wtihout giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
Wayne! That is a tough question- somewhat akin to asking a mother to choose a favorite child! But, since we are limited here to time and space (no pun intended), I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene where Molly finds herself transported to her ancestral home. In “Becoming Malka,” a reoccurring narrative revolves around the concept that “inexplicable” is not the same thing as “unexplainable.” Duvid, a young boy of thirteen, poses an interesting question when he asks, “Why are adults so eager to dismiss things that they cannot explain?” History, I find, is full of extraordinary- miraculous- events. I discovered a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which states, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Quite apropos to my story!
And words to live by. Where can people find you and “Becoming Malka”?