NiFtY Author Oksana Marafioti

Today’s a special weekend post, an interview with Oksana Marafioti, author of the recently-released memoir, American Gypsy. I met Oksana through my awesome, brand-new literary agent, Brandi Bowles, because Brandi also represents Oksana. Oksana’s book sounds so good,  I had to introduce her here. First, though, a description from the book, cribbed off Amazon (there’s more, so click the link for a full description):

Fifteen-year-old Oksana Marafioti is a Gypsy. This means touring with the family band from the Mongolian deserts to the Siberian tundra. It means getting your hair cut in “the Lioness.” It also means enduring sneering racism from every segment of Soviet society. Her father is determined that his girls lead a better, freer life. In America! Also, he wants to play guitar with B. B. King. And cure cancer with his personal magnetism. All of this he confides to the woman at the American embassy, who inexplicably allows the family entry. Soon they are living on the sketchier side of Hollywood. 

BH: What is it about your book that you think will grab readers most?

OM: I think, maybe, the promise of the Romani culture revealed. Despite a Gypsy’s popularity in literature and media, most know very little about us, and what they do know is often distorted by stereotypes.

BH: Which parts of your book gave you the most joy to write?
OM: All the funny parts. It’s liberating to examine your life with a sense of humor. I also loved writing the romantic bits. When I wrote about meeting Cruz, the boy I fell for in high school, I relived that moment as if we were standing there, our eyes locked. Gave me that fizzy feeling all over again.
BH: You originally queried our agent with a fiction project, is that right? What made you decide to write your memoir, and was it easier or harder for you than writing fiction?
OM: I always toyed with the idea of writing about my family, but I didn’t seriously consider it until meeting Brandi. Her interest and enthusiasm was contagious, and I soon found myself writing for hours, researching multiple generations, quite unexpectedly fascinated with a story I thought I knew so well. For me, a memoir was easier because I was so close to the characters. And I knew the ending, so it was much easier to plot the story and see how it should develop.

BH: Is there any feeling or message you’d like readers to take away from your story?

OM: My most earnest message is that family is important, no matter who you are and where you come from. Family is the fountain of youth, the holy grail, the ultimate wonder of the world. We are all bruised by our pasts, but anger and cynicism are poisons passed on, by example, to our children. If we, as children, suffered abuse, we, as adults, have a chance to save another from it. Our culture may dictate rules and traditions, but never who’s worthy of love. And weather we admit it or not, every one of us yearns for one thing, and one thing only: To be accepted. So when we look into the eyes of a stranger who may not speak our language or know our way of life, before we make a judgment against them, we must always remember to see in those same eyes a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, sons and daughters, loved ones. Family and tolerance are the essential ingredients of happiness.

BH: What’s the most helpful writing advice you’ve received?

OM: Figure out the ending, first! If you have it, your characters will gravitate to it and your story will unravel.

Thank you, Oksana, for telling us about your book and your writing! I’m eager to get my hands on American Gypsy!
For more Oksana, you can follow her on Twitter here, and visit her website here.


  1. PB Rippey · July 8, 2012

    Cannot wait to read! Sounds fascinating. On my list.

    • Beth Hull · July 8, 2012

      It’s on my list, too! “Funny parts?” Anything funny & fascinating, yes please.

  2. Pingback: How I Got My Agent, Part Dos « Nebula
  3. Lanette Kauten · July 19, 2012

    This book is definitely going on my to read list.

    • Beth Hull · July 19, 2012

      I know, right? Mine, too. Thanks for stopping by, Lanette.

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