Book Review – Like Water and Other Stories by Olga Zilberbourg

What a treat to receive such a lovely review so close to my book’s second birthday!

Vishy's Blog

Like Water and Other Stories‘ is a collection of fifty two short stories by Olga Zilberbourg. That sounds like a lot of stories, but it doesn’t feel that way while reading the book, because the stories are of varied length – some of them are what used to be called short-shorts which run for a few pages, while others are just a paragraph long like a Lydia Davis story, something which is called micro fiction these days. There are some stories which are longer too.

There are two major types of stories in the book – the Russian stories and the American stories. Olga Zilberbourg is Russian-American and so she has given importance to both sides, though I would say that the book on the whole leans towards the Russian side. Many of the Russian stories explore the Russian-American experience. One of my favourites was a story…

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Review of Vesna Maric’s The President Shop

I’m happy to have written a book review for a new, to me, venue, a magazine called On the Premises, edited and published by the poet Ron Slate.

Vesna Maric emigrated to the UK in 1992, a refugee from Bosnia. A township in northern England funded her transportation. Sixteen at the time, having barely recovered from the shock of experiencing the first six months of the war, she enrolled in school where she soon recognized that “Yugoslavia had been a totalitarian state, that we had been indoctrinated, brainwashed, unfree, undemocratic” – unlike her new British neighbors who were “free of indoctrination” and democratic in practice. As she writes in an essay published in Granta, “The Fascist Within,” this information conflicted with the education she had received in Mostar where she had been a Pioneer and had been taught to regard England as a colonizing capitalist empire that teaches its citizens to value property over human life. How then to reconcile the two incompatible doctrines? What impressions of one’s world remain after we accept that the political history of any country, no matter how democratic it thinks of itself, is mainly a self-justifying lie?

https://www.ronslate.com/on-the-president-shop-a-novel-by-vesna-maric/

Please enjoy the review, and do buy the book!

The Soviet Wizard of Oz

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.

BBC World Service – The Forum, The Wizard of Oz: A homegrown American fairy tale

Here’s also the link to my earlier essay that appeared in Lit Hub: Did the Wizard of Oz Subvert Soviet Propaganda?

“Hold Your Breath Until the Future Comes” published in The Bare Life Review

I’m very happy to have a longer story of mine published in the new issue of The Bare Life Review, a magazine for immigrant and refugee writers. Issue number 4 (they are published annually) has a particular focus on climate change. I’m deeply grateful to Maria Kuznetsova for her insightful edits that helped this story to become more dynamic.

The buzzer rings. The baby must’ve felt the quake in my body. He loses the nipple and screams. I’d passed out for a few minutes, but I’m certainly awake now, and I too want to scream. Did the baby’s diaper leak on my stomach just now, or is it sweat and breastmilk pooling between us?


The air ventilation system broke in my building a few days ago. It’s June in Brooklyn, and the heat is unbearable. I nursed Anton on the couch in the living room, and my breasts are covered in liquid. He’s tired, unhappy. It feels like the two of us are bearing the brunt of the global warming, and there’s nowhere to run.

The buzzer rings again.

https://barelifereview.square.site/product/tblr-vol-4/1?cp=true&sa=true&sbp=false&q=false

The Bare Life Review is a gorgeous print publication. To continue reading, please buy the mag!

Writing and Reviewing Queer Russian Literature: A Conversation with Konstantin Kropotkin

Punctured Lines

We’re delighted to publish our conversation with Konstantin Kropotkin, an author and literary and film critic who reviews LGBT books and movies, as well as trends in Russian culture. Kropotkin’s novels and collections of short stories centering queer lives are available on Amazon, in Russian. His commentary on queer culture appears daily on his Telegram blog “Sodom i umora,” and he contributes full-form critical essays to top Russian-language publications. Kropotkin lives in Germany and this conversation was conducted in English and Russian over email, and subsequently translated by the interviewer.

Olga Zilberbourg: Much of your fiction has been focused on portraying the lives of gay men, and as a critic you pay particular attention to LGBT literature and film. Your popular Telegram blog “Sodom i umora” is dedicated to queer books and movies in Russian or in translation to Russian. Despite the retrograde homophobic laws that Russia has passed…

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Reading for Neustadt International Prize for Literature

World Literature Today has recently announced the names of the jury members who will select the finalists for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and I’m happy and proud to report that I will be a part of this jury. The finalists for the prize will be announced on June 15, 2021, and final deliberations and voting for the 2022 prize will take place at Oklahoma University during the Neustadt Lit Fest in October.

Here are the bios of all the jurors.

“..it was secret and nobody could trick her out of it.” #Zilberbourg2021 #LikeWater

So grateful for this wonderful review from one of the most amazing book bloggers out there!! I learn so much from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.

Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings

As a rule, I am totally rubbish at taking part in, and sticking to, any kind of reading challenge. Whether it’s someone’s reading week, or a readalong, or just making my own plan and following it through, I pretty much always fail. So when I approached a recent Twitter readalong – which I really *did* want to take part in! – I had little confidence I would see it through. However, I’m pleased to report that not only did I stick to the schedule, but also that this turned out to be the perfect way to read the book in question! 😀

The book is “Like Water and Other Stories” by Olga Zilberbourg, her English-language debut published in 2019 by wtaw press. Zilberbourg was born in what was then Leningrad, USSR, but grew up in what reverted to St. Petersburg in 1991 and now lives in California. As well…

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Conversations Between Friends: Nancy Au and Olga Zilberbourg

At the beginning of October, 2019, Nancy Au and Olga Zilberbourg celebrated the publication of their books Spider Love Song and Other Stories and Like Water and Other Stories. The E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore of Oakland, CA, generously hosted their conversation. Nancy grew up in San Francisco and writes about three generations of Chinese-American families. Olga grew up in the Soviet Union and Russia and immigrated to the United States, where she landed in San Francisco. Each of their story collections center on immigrant relationships and complex family dynamics. Following up on their in-person conversation, the authors unpacked their lived experiences and approaches to craft in the email exchange documented here.

Read this conversation in CRAFT magazine.