The Children’s Book Review
Mirela Roznoveanu is a native of Romania who immigrated to the United States. Her literary works in Romanian and English include critical essays, novels, poetry, and journalism. She lives in many languages at once and multiple expressions of literary forms. Her slogan is, “I am curious; therefore, I am.” Mirela Roznoveanu is among those writers and literary critics who sought over recent years to turn the energy of their native cultures into an intricate work with significant moral and aesthetic connotations. Here she discusses her latest book, A Magic Journey to Things Past.
The Children’s Book Review: A Magic Journey to Things Past brings together five generations through a grandmother’s memories. Please tell us what inspired you to write this book.
Mirela Roznoveanu: A family is a polyphonic dialog of different generations, each one with its own set of experiences and sensibility. I realized that the history of the family is important for a healthy family and that its record must be passed into the future. Children have a lot to learn from those past experiences based on moral values. I also discovered that in general, children are exposed only to their parents’ stories but know almost nothing about what had been in time before them. Think about: why do we know so little about our great great great ancestors and siblings? Their accomplishments and failures? I discussed this issue with my granddaughters, and in a way, they were the source of choosing the structure of the book. As you can see, this has been part of the dialogue.
The story is divided into three chapters. Part I: What I’ve Done as a Little Girl; Part II: The Planet of Pleasures (Grandma’s Son Story); Part III: Lunch with Granddaughters (A Matter of Love). Each of the chapters shares the grandmother’s early age, to those of her son, and granddaughters all taking place on two continents at different stages of the past and present century. Why did you decide to tell the story in this particular way?
Each generation has its voice and main interests, and sharing them through storytelling is meaningful in the highest possible way. Grandparents have an important role, educational and formative. They are the nexus of the family. The reader would understand that stories retold or evoked by the voices of so many generations will construct a special kind of time, eventually, the family’s own time. The storyteller is a “living person transmitting experience of life to another in a vital exchange,” as Peter Brooks wrote recently (NYRB, January 16, 2020, p. 49). Memory becomes transformative. The stories transmit moral wisdom to listeners. This process of telling and listening is vivid in Part III, where I transcribed a real event. We have to create listeners and not only readers.
What do you hope young readers and their parents will take away from your book?
I guess the young ones will like that the kids in the book are adventurous, curious, open to learn and that they understand the complexity of the world we live in through not always comfortable events or experiences. Children will also understand the power of the story and the fact they could be active writers, not only readers. And that we the adults are listening to them. My ten-year-old granddaughter Blake has the talent; she kept a log over the last summer, and her records surprised me with novel insights and a humorous perspective of life.
On the other hand, parents and grandparents will realize the degree they must allow children to explore the world to understand its moral values. As we know, childhood is a formative time, essential for the adult’s future and the family as a whole. Raising healthy children is not easy. Nourishing their curiosity is not easy either. Parents should allow their kids to explore in order to understand, in their own ways, while guiding them, influencing and discussing their discoveries, preventing with a strong and sensitive hand wrong choices, and being there for them, unconditionally.
What has been the best reaction from a reader so far?
Daniela is one of my readers from Paris, France, she bought the book from French Amazon, and she sent me the following message: I finished the book. In fact, they are short stories, enchanting emotional restorations, focused on the fundamentals of the times, of different ages. You have the art of detail, not only of events but also of emotions. Some stories, told with humor, are sublime, others arouse strong sensations. Because they are recollections in detail, they induce a very good, pleasant, childhood like happiness. I liked very much also the story at the end, about the Greek epic told to the three children. It’s true, it’s a special literary style. The stories are wonderful and useful for adults and children. Congratulations! You have a huge talent and a lot of passion!
Alexandra Conte is the illustrator of A Magic Journey to Things Past. As you have worked together on previous books and consider yourselves friends, what does the collaboration process look like between the pair of you?
We share ideas, a passion for classical music, and paintings. We regularly visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and comment on masterpieces. Alexandra looks so much like my father’s sister, Antoinette, that I wonder if we don’t have the same family roots. Actually, she is of Polish descent from one side of her family as I am. The way we work is simple: I send the manuscript to Alexandra and she draws illustrations according to her inspiration which it had been always right for me. Please, look in the book at the mysterious Flowers of Sleep drawings (Part II Planet of Pleasures -Grandma’s Son Story) to see colors and lines evoking the magic of sleep!
You are a native of Romania who immigrated to the United States, and your literary works in Romanian and English include critical essays, novels, poetry, and journalism. When did you first know you were or consider yourself to be a writer?
I was forced to choose exile in order to live and protect my son. In 1990 after the December 1989 Revolution, Romania had been a battlefield between those that wanted an anticommunist country and the secret police and the former nomenclature trying to preserve their privileges, the status quo. Those journalists writing against the communists were subject to death, accidents, or defamation.
There is a story in this book (Books and Forests) about the time I was sure I’d be a writer. At the age of ten or eleven, I dreamt of writing books like Homer’s Iliad, Goethe’s Faust, or becoming a playwright like the German writer Shiller who impressed me with masterpieces such as The Robbers (1781), and Wilhelm Tell (1804). I was an avid reader.
Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about A Magic Journey to Things Past, your writing style, or yourself?
The title makes a reference to Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu translated from French as Remembrance of Things Past. Writing, I have always been engaged in dialogues with my favorite colleague writers from all times. If you ask me who would be the author that had an impact on my life and what question I would ask him if alive, well, I would like to ask Homer in what resided his tremendous enthusiasm of telling over and over Iliad and Odyssey to his listeners on the Ionian Islands and how he dealt with loneliness. He died alone on a beach on an island. And the Roman poet Ovid, the author of Metamorphoses, who lived during the reign of Augustus, I would ask him how he dealt in the ice-covered Tomis, today Constantza, by the Black Sea, with another language, and exile. And I would question Dante Alighieri, the author of Divine Comedy, about his choice to leave his beloved city and also die in exile. They are my close friends. I learned a lot from them.
To learn more about Mirela Roznoveanu, visit: https://wp.nyu.edu/mroznoveanu/
Written by Mirela Roznoveanu
Publisher’s Synopsis: The book brings together five generations through the grandmother’s memories. As the recorder of time, her role is to keep the family’s history and traditions alive. Curiosity, magic, and childhood’s mythology are the thread of adventures. They range from the grandmother’s early age, to those of her son, and granddaughters all taking place on two continents at different stages of the former and present century.
Buy the Book
Ages 5+ | Publisher: Xlibris Us | December 9, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1796074857
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