Monday, January 9, 2012

Susan Sherman

From a Q & A with Susan Sherman about her debut novel, The Little Russian:

The Little Russian is such an impressive debut novel and certainly does not fall into the category of “write what you know.” What was your inspiration for the subject matter of the novel?

Sherman: The Little Russian is based on the experiences of my grandmother in Ukraine, which was called Little Russia at the time. Hers is an amazing story of survival, strength and courage during the Russian Civil War. Everyone in my family has a version of her story and everyone thinks their version is the right one. An inevitable part of any family reunion is the traditional running argument over which story is right.

How old were you when you first heard your grandmother’s story? Who told you? How did you feel about it? Were you old enough to understand the concept of being a part of living history?

Sherman: I was seven or eight when my father first described how my grandmother bribed a peasant to hide her in a hay wagon and smuggle her and Sam over the border. I changed it to a river crossing in the book. After that I heard snippets of stories from my father and uncles; the time she was caught in the middle of a battle between the Whites and Reds, traveling the countryside by rail as a peddler, and finding out that my grandfather was looking for her from a rag dealer. But it wasn’t until I was actually working on the book and doing extensive research, did I come to understand what horrors my grandmother had lived through and what an amazing woman she had been. I don’t think anyone in my family realized the kind of strength it took to survive the Russian civil war and what a tiger she had to become to keep her children alive.

When did you decide you wanted to tell the story as a novel?

Sherman: For years I wanted to tell this story, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue