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!

“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!

Review: Three Apples Fell From the Sky

Thanks to The Common, a magazine dedicated to literature of place, and editor Nina Sudhakar for working with me and publishing my review of Narine Abgaryan’s novel in Lisa C. Hayden’s translation. I highly recommend this book, and if anyone interested, I know of a Twitter read-together group that’s planning to dig into this novel in March 2021.

A brave writer begins her novel with the deathbed. Instead of hooking a reader the way the proverbial gun on the wall might, opening with a death scene threatens her with the inevitable backstory.

Luckily, Narine Abgaryan is both a brave and an experienced writer. Three Apples Fell from the Sky is her fifth full-length novel, which won Russia’s prestigious Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award in 2016. Maine-based Lisa C. Hayden translated this novel for Oneworld, and after a COVID19-based delay, the book was released in the UK in August 2020. The novel opens with Anatolia Sevoyants, the protagonist, as she lies down “to breathe her last.” Soon, though, we learn that while Anatolia fully intends to die, life is far from finished with her.

https://www.thecommononline.org/three-apples-fell-from-the-sky/

I Give Up in Mumber Mag

My flash “I Give Up” is now available in the second issue of Mumber Mag! I’m grateful to the editor Harry Leeds for his thoughtful comments on this piece, helping to make it less wordy and amplifying the sense of movement and breathlessness with which its overwhelmed speaker addresses the world.

The next crayon hit him right between the eyes. The next two hit the windshield and the car swerved, coming dangerously close to a refrigerator truck. My husband screamed.

In response, the two-year old started screaming.

https://www.mumbermag.me/2020/12/28/i-give-up/

The Mumber Two (OMG that title) is a delightful issue all around, worth reading cover-to-cover!

No Horse Required published in CALYX

So proud to have a story in the current issue of CALYX. I wrote the first draft of “No Horse Required” in August 2008, that’s 12 years ago! Two years ago, the editors of this magazine requested edits, and one year ago, they accepted it for publication. A version of this story appeared in my 2010 Russian-language collection. For context, the story opens in 1992, and altogether it’s been quite a journey!

When I was thirteen years old, I yearned for a passionate and committed friendship modeled after the books I was reading. Never mind that I was a girl and that, in these books, friendship was reserved for a particular relationship between boys and men. These books were standard fodder for earnest Soviet children, complemented by selections from the international library: The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, The Pathfinder. I searched for blood friends, for true soul mates among my classmates, but the boys preferred computer games and the girls wanted to watch American movies.

https://www.calyxpress.org/shop/vol-321/

The issues are available on sale through the mag’s website. I have a few copies, DM me if you want one.

Distancing Essay in The Believer

Some of my best writing has originated from prompts. Writer Daniel Levin Becker, a member of OULIPO, has provided at least two of them. The most recent piece was for the column he’s doing at The Believer Magazine called Distancing: A Homebound Registry of Other Places and Times and the Albums That Take Us There. Here I wrote about being twenty and feeling lonely as an international student on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Sheltering in place is making me sentimental, I fear. This conversion project has been on my to-do list for a decade, and suddenly I’ve made the time for it, so now I’m listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it’s 1999 and I’m on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology, a former farm that still sounds like a farm at night. I can hear all kinds of insects whose names I don’t know in English or in Russian, because—well, this is a different continent from the one I grew up on, and surely these are different insects. I have no idea. I’m studying business. It’s July, two in the morning, and I’m circling the athletic field with headphones in my ears.

https://believermag.com/logger/distancing-7-goodbye-yellow-brick-road/

Read the rest of my essay and don’t miss the other pieces in this column, taken together they make for an amazing musical mix.

“How to Survive Shabbat Dinner,” a new story

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.

https://580split.org/#howtosurviveshabbatdinner

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

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.