I'm so excited today to be part of the blog tour for Lindsay Smith's debut, Sekret! Big thank-yous to Macmillan and Lindsay. This is one book I have been looking forward to for ages!
First, a bit about the book:
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.
Published: April 1, 2014.
Published by: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Lindsay is here today to share a bit about the setting of Sekret, Soviet Russia! Welcome, Lindsay.
Mystery, Riddle, Enigma: The Allure of a Russian Setting
As an ‘80s child, my earliest memory of world news was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the domino that set off the Soviet Union’s collapse. It was fascinating to grow up in a world of transition, as attitudes toward Russia and the former soviet republics rearranged. My grandparents subscribed to National Geographic, and every year we got a new globe beach ball for me to play with, and I love watching Europe and Asia subdivide like cells into ever smaller fragments that used to be one solid color for the USSR: here the Czechs and Slovaks split, there the Balkans shattered, and new colors blossomed everywhere.
My middle school required at least a year of foreign language study, and I immediately felt drawn to Russian. Our awesome teach was a former US Army linguist who was passionate about teaching—not just the Cyrillic alphabet and dense, elaborate grammar structures, but the Russian arts, history, and culture as well. Every day I walked into her classroom and marveled at the slogans she’d taped up over the chalkboard: MOSCOW DOESN’T BELIEVE IN TEARS. I took two student exchange trips with her class in middle school and high school, during the frenetic Yeltsin years, and my love for the Russian enigma—neither east nor west, no longer soviet but still snuffling around for democracy—only grew.
Needless to say, one of my college majors was Russian Studies. (I also majored in music and computer security, but c’mon, Russian was way cooler.) Much of the baseline for my research into writing is from the accumulated knowledge of all this obsessive study, but it hey, it never hurts to BUY MORE BOOKS, all in the name of research!
The history of late Imperial Russia and the early to middle Soviet Union is one of my favorite stretches of time—trauma and chaos and ideological fervor and unifying wars and a determined march toward perfection, however misguided. Anne The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe splendidly (though frightfully) illuminates the Soviet Union’s oil-slick spread, while Doug Smith’s Former People highlights the plight of the nobles who found themselves gutted, beheaded, , and more in the wake of “progress” and “redistribution.” For a comprehensive survey of the Russian Revolution and Lenin and Stalin eras, you can’t go wrong with Richard The Soviet Experiment.
For a later examination of the Cold War, K Blows Top by Peter Carlson highlights the sometimes hilarious, often scary, never boring personality of Nikita , including the infamous Disneyland incident. A more serious and soul-ripping story spans the works of Solzhenitsyn, from One Day in the Life of Ivan , chronicling life in the gulag prison system, to The Gulag Archipelago. For an exploration of the space race and its heroes (and victims), I highly recommend , a biography of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and the tale of his doomed friendship with the cosmonaut Vladimir .
While the history of only reaches into the 1960s, modern post-Soviet Russia is no less mysterious and enigmatic, as current events hasten to remind us. Anna was a fearless journalist who exposed a great deal of military and political corruption and mismanagement under Vladimir Putin prior to her murder in 2007. Masha studies life under Putin in The Man Without a Face, while David perfectly captures Russians’ fatalistic attitude toward their dark history with the brilliantly titled It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway.
But history is only a part of the Russian identity—I tried to weave as much Russian music and literature into as was natural, to add texture to an otherwise bleak environment largely sealed off from the pop culture of the rest of the world in the 1960s. Russian literature, from Dostoevsky to to Tolstoy, is dense and dark and yet endlessly absorbing; the Russian poets, too, like Anna , Pushkin, Boris Pasternak, and Yevtushenko mete out the lushness and desperation with even hands. Finally, I’d challenge anyone to listen to Tchaikovsky’s and Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos without being swept away by the Russian riddle. There’s always a new corner to explore, and always a new mystery to solve.
I absolutely love learning about what inspires settings that are unique in YA like this, but this is above and beyond! Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing! I'll definitely have to grab some of those books and brush up on my Russian history.
Follow Lindsay Smith on Twitter!
See Lindsay Smith on the Fierce Reads Tour in May!
Check out Lindsay Smith’s website and her blog!
Read Doppel, a new short story by Lindsay Smith set in the world of Sekret.
Download and read (for free) the first five chapters of Sekret.
Click here to follow the rest of the blog tour for more fantastic posts from Lindsay!
Macmillan has kindly offered to send one lucky US/Canada winner a hardcover copy of Sekret! Good luck!
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