I was delighted to participate in the BBC World Service program The Forum dedicated to L. Frank Baum and his 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He was deeply influenced by feminism and had a very interesting life, which makes for a great study. My contribution to the program involved talking about Alexander Volkov, who rewrote Baum’s book for the Soviet audience. Kansas in it appears far less gray and a much happier place to be than in Baum’s original, and the little dog Toto can talk.
Volkov’s novel, The Magician of Emerald City, was published in 1939, coincidentally the year of the release of the Hollywood movie based on Baum’s book. The movie and Baum’s book were completely unknown to most people behind the Iron Curtain, but the Volkov novel was hugely popular. It was foundational reading for me: one of my first chapter books, and the first book I’d read out loud in its entirety to my brother. To know more about all of this, do listen to the BBC show. Huge thanks to Bridget Kendall, the host, and to Anne Khazam, the producer of this show.
Here’s also the link to my earlier essay that appeared in Lit Hub: Did the Wizard of Oz Subvert Soviet Propaganda?