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Mashka and Mishka: Get trapped in a rainbow
Marina Makaron has been tapping into her Eastern European roots as a
successful fashion designer and creative artist, and now with her first children’s
book, Mashka and Mishka: Get trapped in a rainbow. Inspired by the fairy tales
her grandmother read to her as a child, and the folklore she grew up on,
Marina’s other call to action for writing a children’s book was being able to read
a fairytale for her son’s third grade class without having to translate it from
Mashka and Mishka: Get trapped in a rainbow tells the tale of two siblings who
live on opposite sides of the mirror, neither of them know which sibling is real
until one night when they appear on a magical field and embark on a
spectacular journey filled with memorable characters and adventures, along
with important messages about gender identity and fluidity. The story also
explores the pressures social norms put on children as they seek out their
place in the world and within themselves. Marina is creating a Mashka and
Mishka series with a mission to highlight developmental milestones amidst
more magical and vibrant adventures. A mother of four, Marina is also a
certified Ashtanga yoga instructor and pre-certified nutritionist.
Interview with the Author
I see you have a background in fashion. What drew you to the fashion industry and how did you get started?
In 2007 I was finishing my dissertation for my Master's at London School of Economics. While I vaguely remember the topic (something about "the glamor discourse in global cities"), it was the conclusion that changed my life. The idea of going back to one’s roots: To the simple imagery of the countryside. I was eager to create a brand that would spread the local message in the global arena. Since I am Russian, my countryside and rural imagery was of Russia. And the best way to translate that was through folklore. That inspired me to create prints. Later they became accessories. With time the brand grew to offer a complete line of attire.
How has your experience in fashion played a role in writing a book?
Eastern European folklore is something I have always been fascinated with. I use the imagery in my prints as well as in my book. However, these are completely separate creative fields. I still have so much to learn about publishing. While writing and illustrating a book is very rewarding, getting it to the reader is a journey I'm excited to uncover.
What drew you to the idea of writing a children's book?
I am a mom of four. I often read bedtime stories to my kids. Being born in Russia, I feel it is important for my kids to remember where their ancestors came from. I grew up on Eastern European folklore. Considering that back in the 80s there was no internet, cable or iPads, our entertainment was reading. I recall my grandmother reading to my brother and me. Those moments are embedded in my memory forever. I wanted to share them with my kids and their peers. But the stories needed to be adapted to modern times. Last fall I was supposed to read to my son's 3rd grade class. Instead of trying to translate a Russian fairytale, I decided to write my own. That is how it all started.
Is there a main message you would like kids to take away when reading your book?
The issue of gender identity has always been an important one for me. Children go through the process of trying to associate themselves with what is expected of them from society. Some can feel like they are too feminine while being a boy or vice versa. And that can be difficult. I know that feeling all too well. I grew up feeling like a masculine Great Dane yet looking like a pink Chihuahua. When I was younger, in business meetings, people did not take me seriously. I repeatedly encountered comments like, ‘Have you seen yourself in the mirror?’ ‘Who will listen to you?’
I personally believe it is a very important topic because gender identity is something that all kids go through. And it is okay to go on a journey and even decide that you are "they" – a pronoun we should see more of in future literature. As a mom of four, I am proud of my kid’s personal achievements without forming gender related checkmarks.
What was the most challenging aspect when writing this book?
I had a great time writing this book! It flowed on the pages in a matter of days. Initially, it was twice as long with complex language. When I began to consider publishing it, I chose the reader level. That is when I understood that the story needs to be trimmed and simplified. That was, of course, not an easy journey. It is difficult to delete hard work. I stumbled for quite a while.
You were originally from Russia. What was your experience like when you first came to the U.S.?
I came to USA after the collapse of Soviet Union. The contrast in lifestyle between the two countries was magnificent -- from restrain and blind execution to freedom of action and thought. It was, of course, not without difficulties. The period of adjustment in a new school and learning the language was not the easiest. But through the prism of an optimistic child, I was 12, and most hardships were overlooked. Like doing middle school homework with the help of translators and dictionaries into the night, or being bullied for having an accent and dressing "uncool"... Yet parallel to that, meeting life-long friends, learning a new culture, and, of course, having the ability to speak your truth. We not only moved countries, we moved cultures and regimes exchanging repression for freedom.
This is the first book that you will be releasing. What can we expect from you next as an author?
I am working on creating a Mashka and Mishka series. I hope the reader will associate and connect with the characters. I see the "siblings" growing while encountering important developmental milestones during their magical adventures.
For more information and to order the book, go to: https://marinalmakaron.wixsite.com/books