Event Announcement: Two Olgas and One Genrikh: Russian Poems, Stories, & Shirts

Punctured Lines

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…

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Did the Russian Wizard of Oz Subvert Soviet Propaganda?

I wrote for LitHub about one of my favorite books growing up.

Volkov’s Kansas is populated by poor farmers, but despite of it—or, in fact, because of it—it’s a friendly place. Volkov leans on the political ideas of the Communist International (Comintern) movement, particularly popular before in the 1930s Stalin began executing its members. Comintern was officially disbanded during World War II, but some of its ideals were allowed to live on. As children, we were taught to believe that all poor people of the world were united in their strife against the wealthy bourgeois exploiters, whether these poor people lived in Kansas or in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, where Volkov was born. From her house, Ellie can see the houses of her equally poor farmer neighbors; they are her friends who play with her and share with her the little they have. To us young readers, Kansas seemed in fact so wonderful that even in the middle of Cold War, we dreamed of going there as though it itself was the Magic Land.

Read the rest of this piece on LitHub.

Barrelhouse Reviews: Like Water by Olga Zilberbourg

Like Water contains 52 stories of varying length. Stories should be enjoyed one per sitting, with time to savor after each. Many of them contain layered perspectives, and Zilberbourg focuses particularly on communication in its moment of breakdown. Those moments benefit from unfolding time. “Rubicon” opens the collection, setting the pace–fast, active reading time with extended mental work–and a magical vibe. Characters experience time slips and revisit decisions that mark moments of no return. 

Read the rest of this review by Alissa Gillon on Barrelhouse Magazine.

Review of LIKE WATER in the Moscow Times

I’m tremendously grateful to writer Anna Kasradze and editor Michele Berdy of The Moscow Times for publishing a thoughtful review of my upcoming English-language debut.

The thread connecting these tales 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. For this reason, bicultural readers of varied backgrounds will likely hear their own experiences resonating with this collection. Together, the 52 stories of “Like Water and Other Stories” offer shards of spacetime and leave the reader to piece them together. This format consistently frustrates the reader’s search for one big takeaway or one favorite character, but it allows the reader to experience alongside the characters their struggle for takeaways and coherent selves. <…>

Read the whole piece here.

Book Events

The publication date for my debut English-language book LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES is approaching on September 5. If you are in the Bay Area, please come to the book party on September 12, 7 pm at Studio 333, Sausalito, CA. We will be celebrating my book together with Anita Felicelli’s novel CHIMERICA. Peg Alford Pursell, our publisher and the author of A GIRL GOES INTO THE FOREST, will host the event that will include a reading, a conversation, wine and cake.

I’m particularly delighted that, as a part of my book tour, I’ll be able to return to Rochester, New York, where I first landed when I came to the US in 1996. I look forward to visiting RIT and catching up with old friends as a part of this adventure. My Rochester event is scheduled for November 9th, 7:30 pm at Java’s in downtown Rochester — more information about that soon.

Below are two more upcoming Bay Area readings. More events are in the works, and I will update you as the book tour comes together!

On October 5 at 7 pm, I will be in conversation with Nancy Au, author of SPIDER LOVE SONG AND OTHER STORIES, at E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore, Oakland, CA

On October 7 at 7 pm, I will participate in Odd Mondays reading series at Folio Books, San Francisco, CA

Thank you for all of you who have pre-ordered my book — you should be receiving it soon. If you’d like to pre-order your copy of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES, you can do it here.

My Review of Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis

Here’s a new review I wrote for The Common of a remarkable book that comes to us from Azerbaijan, published thanks to the advocacy of its translator, Katherine E. Young,

Contemporary books emerging from post-Soviet countries often deal with the dehumanizing effect of the region’s systems of government on its victims, seeking to trace and partially redeem the psychological and physical harm many have suffered. For understandable reasons, few authors care to look at the perpetrators, at the people who committed murders and mass murders, informed on and denounced their neighbors. Yet, in the post-Soviet reality, often it’s these people and their descendants who have risen to the top, taken charge of the new nation states, and written their laws.

It is in this context that Akram Aylisli, in post-Soviet Azerbaijan, gathers together the three novellas and closing essay that comprise his “non-traditional novel,” Farewell, Aylis. Born in 1937, Aylisli achieved fame in the Soviet Union for his earlier trilogy People and Trees. Though pieces of this new, remarkable book have appeared in Russia, the collected Farewell, Aylis, published as a result of the efforts of his American translator, Katherine E. Young, does not yet exist in any other language.

Click here to read the rest of the review.

An interview on The Other Stories podcast

A week ago, I had a chance to talk to Ilana Masad, a writer and a podcast host at The Other Stories. She asked me to read two stories from my forthcoming collection, LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES, and then we talked about the stories, the book, and a bit about my coming to writing.

“We Were Geniuses,” one of the two stories from the podcast, is an older story and had been first published in The Provo Canyon Review, a beautiful online journal started by my Narrative Magazine colleague Chris McClelland–Chris moved on to other things, and the magazine is now unfortunately defunct. I love seeing this story back online, together with “Sweet Porridge,” another piece from the middle of the book.

Read the stories and listen to the podcast here!