Debra Dean worked as an actor in the New York theater for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer and teacher. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington.
This biography was last updated on 01/01/2011.
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The Madonnas of Leningrad : The Story Behind The Book by Debra Dean
In 1995, I watched a PBS series on the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. My journal entry for the next day read in part: "I was particularly struck by one incident which might make a story (even a novel, but for the research)." During the first winter that the Nazis lay siege to Leningrad, the Hermitage staff and their families nearly 2000 people - lived in the basement of the museum itself. In the first days of the war, they had evacuated all the art millions of objects, thousands of undisputed masterpieces - but they had left the empty frames hanging on the walls of the museum as a token of their pledge that the art would return. A story was related that one of the staff, a former guide now living in the cellar, began to give tours of the empty museum to visitors. It was said that he described the paintings so well that the visitors could almost see them.
This image gripped me. Still, I was a short story writer and even my short stories tended towards the brevity of poems, so the prospect of writing something the size of a novel terrified me. Let alone a novel set in a country that I had never visited and during a tumultuous period ...
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