Therapy. Or Something

A short story from my book is up on Ravishly today. It’s a quick read, and I hope, an entertaining one. This story is from the book’s middle, a lighter one, and also deeply connected with the other pieces from the collection. Both new motherhood and the relationships between grown children and parents are major threads.

I brought my mother to therapy with me today. Mother butted shoulders with me to march into the therapist’s office a step ahead. “I have to tell you right away, I don’t see why my daughter needs therapy,” she said, stopping in the middle of the room, halfway to the couch. “She’s a little anxious and disorganized, but who isn’t? Frankly, I don’t believe in therapy.”

https://www.ravishly.com/therapy-or-something

Short-form interview with Olga Zilberbourg in Epiphany blog

I’m so grateful to Odette Heideman for her deep engagement with my work — she’d published a story of mine, The Green Light of Dawn, in Epiphany literary magazine some years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch since then. She asked thoughtful questions that were fun to respond to. Huge thanks to Kendra Allenby for the portrait!

Read the full interview in Epiphany blog.

Like Water is not a traditional novel, but it reads like a novel in a way, with the immigrant condition as a sort of blanketing narrative. Looking at Like Water as a whole, the immigrant-in-a-new-world is an archetypal character—male, female, young, old—all encompassed in one larger character. Did you sort through stories you had to find the ones that feel this connection? How did it come together?

Thank you for characterizing the book as a non-traditional novel! This is precisely the effect I was going for. My training is in comparative literature, and I’ve done some work in narrative theory. As a reader, I am always conscious about the way I look beyond the characters and the narrators of a book, searching for the consciousness of the implied author to guide my reading experience. Who is that person structuring the information on the page? What can I tell about her politics, about her ethical values, about the strengths and the limitations of her factual knowledge? These questions inform my analysis and appreciation of the text. 

http://epiphanyzine.com/features/2019/11/27/short-form-olga-zilberbourg

Genrikh Sapgir's Sonnets: A Performance from ALTA

Punctured Lines

On November 9th, 2019, Olga Livshin, Dmitri Manin, and I hosted an off-off-site at ALTA (American Literary Translators Conference) in Rochester, NY. Olga Livshin introduced A LIFE REPLACED, her hybrid collection combining own and translated poems; and I introduced LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES, my English-language collection of fiction. Both books deal with issues around parent and children relationships, immigration, and processing the complex inheritance that we brought to the US from the Soviet Union.

To open the evening, we staged a brief performance of Dmitri Manin’s translations from the work of Genrikh Sapgir. A Soviet Jewish poet, Sapgir combines a whimsical imagination with the sharp eye for telling details. Watching this video a few weeks after the performance, I’m surprised to see how effectively Sapgir’s images and Dmitri Manin’s words helped us to recreate a certain spirit of the late Soviet Union, a kind of festive…

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Review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES in The Manchester Review

Alicia J. Rouverol, a writer and a scholar based in the UK, wrote about my book in The Manchester Review. The anglophone corner of my heart where I store my memories of learning by heart “Down Whitehall street, there’s a square, Trafalgar Square” from my Soviet English textbook in 7th grade, couldn’t be more pleased with this development!

In the remarkable Like Water and Other Stories (WTAW Press), released in September 2019, Zilberbourg offers a collection of shorts that call us to query our sense of time and place, mortality, and most especially identity. Her topics range from migration and mobility, to parenthood and miscarriage; settings feature rural Russia to urban America (Rochester, NY; San Francisco; among others). Global place/displacement serves as a centrepoint of the collection, making this volume particularly timely. Yet it is Zilberbourg’s play with the story form in this collection that draws us in, inviting a re-consideration of how collections can at once reveal substantive stand-alone works and generate a body of work united as a whole. The blend of ‘story play’ in combination with themes that reverberate in these times makes this a collection especially rich and worthy of reading and contemplating.

http://www.themanchesterreview.co.uk/?p=11103

It’s a lovely in-depth piece — please click through to read the rest.

Women in Public Art, my essay in World Literature Today

My essay about the movement to increase representations of women in monumental public art was published by World Literature Today:

San Francisco, where I live, is, on par with Seville, a popular tourist destination. As a writer, I often wonder what images of the city people carry away from their visits here. Perhaps it’s the fog curling over the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps it’s the souvenir shops at Fisherman’s Wharf. Likely, it’s the people sleeping in abject poverty on the city sidewalks. If asked what notable person comes to mind when you think of San Francisco, the name that a visitor rattles off might reflect their own walk of life, but be it that of a businessperson, a film director, an entertainer, a politician, a scientist, an environmentalist, or a computer engineer, more likely than not, it will be a male name.

Despite the fact that women in the United States attained the right to vote nearly one hundred years ago, we are far from attaining parity in most forms of public life.

https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/blog/cultural-cross-sections/women-public-art-essay-olga-zilberbourg

Here’s Lava Thomas’s design of the Maya Angelou monument that I dream about seeing on the streets of San Francisco.

Rochester, New York: Two Olgas and One Genrikh: Russian Poems, Stories, & Shirts

When: Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 7 PM – 10 PM EST
Where: Java’s Cafe, 16 Gibbs St, Rochester, New York 14604

Join us for a lively evening of stories, poems, and performance art by nonconformist writers from the former Soviet Union, in English.

Olga Livshin‘s book A LIFE REPLACED braids together poems on immigration in America with translations from Anna Akhmatova and our contemporary Vladimir Gandelsman, winner of Russia’s highest award for poetry, the Moscow Reckoning. Many poems are responses to these two voices; some are stand-alone works. Maggie Smith comments: “Livshin, who immigrated to the US from Russia as a child, acknowledges the two Americas she knows firsthand: the one that fears and demonizes, and the one that welcomes. A LIFE REPLACED is astonishingly beautiful, intelligent, and important.”

A graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, Olga Zilberbourg will introduce her English-language short story collection LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES. “The thread connecting these tales,” Anna Kasradze writes for The Moscow Times (ed. Michele Berdy), “is each protagonist’s attempt to come to terms with an identity that is always in flux, transitioning between various contexts such as emigration, motherhood, partnership, and employment.” Olga is the author of three Russian-language books (the latest of which “Хлоп-страна,” Издательство Время, 2016). She has published fiction and essays in Alaska Quarterly Review, Scoundrel Time, Narrative Magazine, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She co-moderates the San Francisco Writers Workshop.

Opening for the two Olgas is a poetry performance by translator Dmitri Manin. Avant-garde sonnets by Genrikh Sapgir will be presented on shirts, worn by both Olgas and Dmitri. Sapgir (1928-1999), a hugely acclaimed poet in Russia, first presented his philosophical and funny Sonnets on Shirts–on actual men’s shirts–in 1975. His performance made a sensation amidst an atmosphere of official, staid, highly traditional, print-only Soviet literature. Manin revives his work and re-enacts it in English, using contemporary bodies and presences to channel Sapgir.

Java’s–a ten-minute walk or three-minute Lyft drive from the Floreano Convention Center–will have food and drink for us to regale us into the night with literature and pleasure.