Olga Zilberbourg is the author of LIKE WATER & OTHER STORIES (WTAW Press) and three Russian-language collections of stories. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Scoundrel Time, World Literature Today, Tin House Online, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. She serves as a co-facilitator of the San Francisco Writers Workshop.
I’m delighted to see my review of Margarita Khemlin’s powerful novel Klotsvog in Lisa C. Hayden’s translation up on The Common. Huge thanks to Nina Sudhakar for editing.
The piece is available online for free, and I urge you to spread the word, subscribe, and donate to this wonderful publication that focuses on writing of place. And they pay their writers, too!
“The year is 1950 in Kiev. A twenty-year-old college student, Maya Klotsvog, falls in love with her professor, Viktor Pavlovich. He’s eight years older and married. One day, the professor’s wife, Darina Dmitrievna, catches up with Maya at the tram stop and reveals that her husband loves Maya and has asked for a divorce. He wants to marry Maya and have children with her. But Darina Dmitrievna adds something else: “You’re Jewish and your children would be half Jewish. And you yourself know what the situation is now. You read the papers, listen to the radio. And then that shadow would fall on Viktor Pavlovich himself, too. Anything can happen. Don’t you agree? Babi Yar over there is full of half-bloods.”
Audre Lorde’s name and work is familiar to many of us who have studied feminist movements in high school and college. Some of her seminal essays, including “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” are commonly included in syllabuses of literature classes and used as entry points into the conversation about the politics of literature and how combinations of race, gender, and sexuality affect one’s construction of self and point of view on the world.
Less well known is Lorde’s essay “Notes from a Trip to Russia” that opens her book Sister Outsider. A footnote to this essay explains that Lorde spent two weeks in the Soviet Union in 1976 as an American observer to the African-Asian Writers Conference sponsored by the Union of Soviet Writers. Having returned from that trip, she finds herself haunted by it in her dreams, including a…
My story “How to Survive Shabbat Dinner” appears in 580 Split, an issue subtitled “Message Undeliverable.” Read it here!
Spatzi escaped from East Berlin two weeks before the wall came down. This has been the grounding irony of her life. It’s nearly thirty years later, and she lives in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and drives a ridesharing car. Her favorite windshell jacket has turned from brown to puke-green from sun exposure. But hey, it now better matches the upholstery of the car seats.
Once in awhile she thinks about moving back to Berlin.
I love seeing my book resonating with readers out there. Here’s another lovely review in one of my favorite literary magazines out there, World Literature Today, written by Lanie Tankard:
Many stories address mothering, particularly combined with employment. In the inventive “Dandelion,” an author mails off her nineteen-month-old child as a metaphorical manuscript to her New York publisher. Zilberbourg monitors the maternal phenomenon through generations as if turning a kaleidoscope to watch patterns shift from grandmother to mother to daughter.
Thank you Jaye Viner for reviewing my book in Necessary Fiction!
For many Americans, the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 has faded into history. It is of the past, removed, something that makes for good television. At most, it is an event of international importance, something that happened “over there.” This is less true for Americans who were born in the USSR such as author Olga Zilberbourg, whose first book of English-language short stories, Like Water and Other Stories, was released last fall. For Zilberbourg, 1992, the year after the fall, is a milestone year around which many of her stories revolve. It acts as an invisible undercurrent weaving through the collection.
Сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец «Хлоп-страна» (М., 2017) пересказать тем более невозможно, поскольку каждый рассказ этой американской писательницы, родившейся в Петербурге (Ленинграде), по-своему хорош и по-своему оригинален. Перескажу хотя бы один, чтобы те, кто книгу не читал, поняли, что нужно прочесть и остальные.
It just so happens that three of my friends from writing workshops are coming out with their debuts this spring. As it turns out, this spring is a very strange time to be bringing out a book into the world — coronavirus has upended most book parties and closed many bookstores. Parties are moving online in some fun, creative solutions, yet I fear that many writers and many bookstores are going to suffer for it.
All that is an aside more than a preamble to my intro of four exciting new books. I know these projects closely, from reading multiple drafts, and I cannot wait to see how they look between the covers.
The Pelton Papers by Mari Coates, is a novel from the life of Agnes Pelton, a modernist painter who died in 1961 and is only now finally finds recognition. An exhibit of her work is currently on tour around the nation, and who knows how the coronavirus will affect people’s ability to view the art. Once you read the book, though, you are going to be looking for this art in every museum out there, my promise.
Home Baked by Alia Volz. I first heard a part of this memoir ages ago, when Alia performed it at a Litquake reading. I have the image of baby Alia in a stroller as her mother pushes her down San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, peddling pot brownies that she keeps in a duffel under the stroller. She’s known as The Brownie Lady and is selling to the local business people and street acts. Later, I’ve seen several iterations of Alia’s memoir in workshop, and I can’t wait to see how the scene I fell in love with fits in with the rest.
Kept Animals by Kate Milliken. In a typical workshop, people bring in about 15-20 pages of writing for participants to discuss. For novels, this can be deadly–the format completely breaks up the flow of a novel, and participants lose track of characters and story lines from one month to the next. Commenting is a challenge, because the participant really should hold most of her questions to herself. With this novel, I remember thinking, how is today’s chapter even a part of the same book? The pieces seemed to be so different from one another, and it took me a few months to start piecing it together in my mind. I’m so ready to just dive into this book.
BONUS: A few more exciting spring books by writers I admire. Please buy them and spread the word!
I uploaded two stories from my book, Companionship and Practice a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual to YouTube as a part of Annie Kim’s Way Off-Site virtual reading event to bring together people who decided not to go to AWP20 writers conference. Missing the conference was sad, and this turned out to be a really fun exercise.