As you might have guessed, my name is Marina (Masha is my family nickname and Google handle). I was born and raised in the former USSR and read my first book at the age of three. It think was something about a bird, but don't hold me to it. The important thing was, I got hooked and never looked back.
I like to call myself an "American by choice," but as much as I had wished to live in the U.S., the choice, and the sacrifices that came with it, were my parent's alone. They gave up their home, careers and comfort to make sure I would live in freedom. In December of 1987, I took my first steps on American soil and fell in love with my new country with the intensity that can only be understood by religious converts.
I love the American people--the way they move; the way they smile at strangers; the way they say "thank you" for the smallest favor; the way they constantly find excuses to celebrate and enjoy life. Some might point out that the country is not what it once was, that there are hardships and problems, both current and on the horizon. No matter. From where I stand, the idea of America, the constant striving towards happiness and greatness is still alive and not going anywhere.
That brings me back to culture in general and storytelling in particular. The best way I can think of repaying my new home country for her hospitality is to help support art, especially literature, that celebrates all that makes America special to so many around the world. If you share my desire, or just looking for a different book-related place to hang out, come on over and let's have some fun.