I was in my early twenties when I discovered what my name was.

For the first twelve years of my life I was Sofia, and since almost every Russian name has a diminutive, used by family and friends, I was also Sonia, as well as Sonechka, an even more intimate variant. After my family left the Soviet Union and we’d been in America for a while, I changed my name to Sophie.

Changing your name isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one thing, you have to contend with loved ones who are none too thrilled with your decision since they gave you that name in the first place. The day I announced I wanted to be Sophie, at age thirteen, during dinner in the one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood that was our first home in America, my parents thought it was a joke and were stunned to realize I was serious.

“Why do you want to do this?” my mother asked. “Sofia is a very good name.”

“That’s not the point. I want a new one.”

“Sophie sounds kind of strange,” my father said.

“You think that only because it isn’t Russian,” I protested.

Russkoe, ne russkoe, I don’t care, but tell me, please, who changes their name? What for?”

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