Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Julia Gousseva, the author of two books set in Russia during the years when it was known as the Soviet Union or the USSR. Moscow Dreams and Anya’s Story are both historical fiction set more than twenty years ago in a land often misunderstood and shrouded in mystery to the Western world.
Welcome, Julia. It’s such a pleasure to have you visit today. I’m curious about your transition from Russia to the United States. You are Russian, born and raised in Moscow. Now, you live in Arizona. How, when, and why did you come to Arizona?
I came to Arizona in 1993. At the time, Russia was going through major political, social, and cultural changes. One of the changes was that many Western companies set up offices in Moscow and were hiring people with a good knowledge of the English language. As a recent graduate of the Moscow State Linguistic University, I felt at an advantage. Jobs were plenty, and I had my pick. For a while, I had a job that involved setting up university exchanges of scientists and researchers. One of the benefits of that job was access to catalogues of U.S. universities and discounts on graduate school exams. The choice of Arizona was simple. The postal service between Russia and the United States was incredibly slow, and I realized that I would not be able to make any of the deadlines for the various parts of the application process. The University of Arizona gave me their fax number. After that, it was pretty much a done deal. By 2001, I had a Masters’ Degree and a Ph.D from the University of Arizona as well as a full-time job teaching writing for Pima County Community College.
Both of your novels, Moscow Dreams and Anya’s Story, are set in Russia at a time of great changes. How much of these stories is biographical and how much was researched?
I lived in Moscow in 1991 and worked as a Russian-English interpreter for a British cameraman. I described all the events in Moscow Dreams from personal experience since we spent the three days of the attempted coup in 1991 walking and driving around Moscow, participating in various gatherings, and taking pictures. My best friend married a submarine officer, so a lot of Anya’s Story came from my conversations with her and my own experience living for a year in small Russian town by the Arctic circle. For both books, I researched some technical details, exact dates, etc.
Those experiences begged to be told. I’m so glad you did. Both of your protagonists, Marina in Moscow Dreams and Anya in Anya’s Story are very young, and both stories are coming-of-age stories, as well as historical fiction. Can you explain your choice of such protagonists?
I wanted to convey the idea of change, a major change. The end of high school is a time of major changes for anybody: you’re becoming an adult, finding your way in life or way into college, coming of age. And I wanted to show a parallel between changes in Marina’s and Anya’s lives and changes in the country. Both these young women are trying to adjust to their new lives as adults while the country is adjusting to its own new life as a fledgling democracy. One of the major themes in both these novels is that life is fleeting and the future is always unknown, and all we can do is make our best guesses about it and take decisions based on our understanding of the present.
That is so true, Julia. I’m very pleased you stopped by today. I look forward to you visiting again.
About Julia: Ms. Gousseva was born and raised in Russia when it was still a part of the Soviet Union, or USSR. For a long time, Russia was hidden behind the Iron Curtain and had a mysterious image of the Evil Empire to many Westerners, specifically Americans. But Russia was a mystery not just to outsiders, but to its own people as well. One of Julia’s college history professors used to refer to Russia as a country with unpredictable past. Why? Because every time a new leader came to power, all state-issued history books were changed and rewritten. And all history books were state-issued.
Links to Julia’s Books and Social Media