Today’s picture book review post is about creativity, passion and the power of being true to yourself.
Yevgenia Nayberg is the author and illustrator of this unique and heartwarming story based on her own experiences as a left-handed artist growing up in Russia.
Title: ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY
Genre: Picture Book
Author and Illustrator: Yevgenia Nayberg
In Russia, right-handedness is demanded–it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya’s creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.
Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.
Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this gorgeous story!
It’s great to have you, Yevegenia!
Thanks for having me, Katie.
I’d like to jump right in with a quote that I absolutely love from your story.
“The right hand took care of the world around Anya. The left hand took care of the world inside Anya. Anything she imagined, the left hand could draw.” These are such beautiful words within your story. Where did your inspiration for this story stem from? Are you left-handed?
Yes, I am left-handed! Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.
You include a very informative author’s note at the end of the story that shares some more about you growing up in the Soviet Union and unusualness of seeing someone left-handed. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include this integral backmatter?
I did not plan on including the backmatter. It is still a concept that I struggle with. I prefer to explain less and leave more space for mystery.
Is this story about you?
Simply speaking, yes, because I am a left-handed immigrant artist who enjoys her imaginary worlds. Unlike my character, Anya, I moved to the US as an adult, and my immigration experience if quite different from Anya’s. Anya is an improved, more exuberant version of me.
Did you have your own ‘Secret Lefty Society’?
I still have a secret society of my own, but, of course, it must remain secret!
Not only did you write the story, but you illustrated it as well. You use a lot of textures. Can you tell us more about your process?
I used a mixed media/digital collage. A story usually dictates a technique. If I write about the old masters from the past, I want my style to reflect that. It is a technical trick, if you will, achieved through texture and lighting. In the book, when Anya moves from Russia to New York City, I make a subtle stylistic change as well, but that change is made through color and composition.
If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?
Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!
What is coming up next for you?
My next author/illustrator book, Typewriter, is coming out in 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story told by a Russian typewriter, that (who?) immigrates to America. My latest picture book is called Mona Lisa in New York. Mona Lisa is currently looking for a publisher.
Do you have any social media channels or a website you’d like to share?
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/nayberg
My website is https://www.nayberg.org/
Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and for letting me interview you!
You can purchase ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY here.
Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!