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.
Back in May, I read from my book and answered some questions for a new, Zoom-based reading series called BunkerLit. It was a fun event and the organizers posted the video right away, but things were hectic then (let’s face it, they are still hectic six months later), and I forgot to share this link here. Check it out. I’m hugely grateful to Brendan Isaac Jones and Amy Butcher for inviting me and for everyone who attended!
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.http://necessaryfiction.com/reviews/LikeWaterandOtherStories
My book is available from WTAW Press in paperback and ebook formats.
I’m delighted to report that my book LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES is a finalist in the Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards.
Buy the book from WTAW Press in paper of ebook form.
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.
A couple of reminders:
Translator and blogger Lisa C. Hayden is one of the most attentive readers of contemporary Russian literature I know. As soon as I had galleys, I sent her a copy of my book, more of a fan’s gesture than anything else. It’s wonderful to see that my book did resonate with her. As always, Lisa is an attentive and thoughtful in her analysis, and I love the company my book gets to keep on her blog–she reviewed it alongside two English-language books that sound like must-reads.
This sort of inexplicable success, often in stories that initially feel unremarkable, is one of my favorite sensations when reading. (I have a special affection for fiction that initially feels unremarkable but then finds something tranformingly transcendent.) Most of all, I don’t want to know how Olga does this. One thing I do know, though, is that she has lots of inexplicable successes in Like Water, both at capturing cultural and linguistic differences, and at capturing idiosyncrasies in ways that, taken together, not only broaden language but broaden our views of humanity.lizoksbooks.blogspot.com/2020/03/three-hybrid-books-barnes-croft-and.html
I’m deeply grateful to Jen Hinst-White of The Common for this thoughtful review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES:
The story drops an idea on the table and leaves the reader with something to puzzle out. It’s an example of Zilberbourg’s skill with brevity; even the longer pieces in this collection are just ten or twelve pages, stories to eat quickly and digest slowly. Some, like “Email” and “One’s Share,” are no longer than a paragraph. (This feels appropriate, given all the childrearing themes here. For parents of small children, sometimes an entire meal consists of small, stolen bites, chewed while doing something else. The same can be true for our reading and writing lives.)
The stories in this collection are so interrelated that questions provoked by one story are sometimes given context by another.https://www.thecommononline.org/review-like-water-by-olga-zilberbourg/
My book is available from WTAW Press.
I’m delighted and grateful to Linda Kinstler and Los Angeles Review of Books for reviewing my book in a thoughtful piece that places it side by side with the book by my comrade and compatriot Olga Livshin.
What should one tell one’s children of a former life? How much should be passed down? How much can be? These questions also animate Olga Zilberbourg’s new book of short fiction, Like Water and Other Stories, her first collection published in the United States. …
One of Zilberbourg’s heroines, newly graduated from college and desiring to learn more about her heritage, goes to live with an elderly Russian woman in a nearby town. When that experience does not suffice, she goes to St. Petersburg, where she catches the flu, gets groped, and feels alienated and stonewalled by the city’s bureaucracy. “I was back in the United States within a month,” our heroine admits. She discovers that the city of her parents owes her nothing, that it is not required to open itself up to those who were deflected from its path.https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/deflected-by-this-bitter-era-on-olga-livshins-a-life-replaced-and-olga-zilberbourgs-like-water-and-other-stories/
Here’s a podcast interview I gave about LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES to Jennifer Eremeeva for the New Books Network. Listen to the audio below or go to Jennifer’s website or download the interview through searching for New Books Network on your favorite podcasting app!
A new generation of Russian emigres is blessed — or cursed — with the ease of long-haul flights and frequent flyer miles, Skype and FaceTime, Google translate, and regulations that seem anyway to be more forgiving about former citizens traveling to and fro. For them, the border has become far more porous than it ever was, and the choices are now more nuanced. However, there are still plenty of cultural minefields to navigate. To this generation that includes writers as disparate as Gary Shteyngart and Irina Reyn comes Olga Zilberbourg with a new collection of short stories, “Like Water and Other Stories.”https://jennifereremeeva.com/like-water/
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!
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