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.

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!

Pre-order my book!

My book, LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES, is now available for pre-order. You can buy it through my publisher’s website by clicking here, or find it on Amazon. The publisher is now running a pre-order discount. The book will be shipped out close to its publication date, which is September 5, 2019.

Pre-ordering the book is an important part of the publishing process that helps to build enthusiasm for the work among all the parties involved, from publisher to book reviewers and the reading public. More specifically, it gives the publisher the idea of how many books to actually print. If you want to support an author, pre-ordering a book (and later writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else) is one of the best ways to do that.

Thank you!

Bananas for Sale

One of the stories from my upcoming collection Like Water has been published in Scoundrel Time, an online literary magazine that began as a reaction to forces that attempt to fracture civil society. Here’s the extract from this piece:

The bananas were rotting on the factory floor outside of St. Petersburg. In early October, the temperature inside the nearly abandoned building held at just above freezing, too cold for the tropical fruit. Banana skins were greying, developing dark spots. They would survive just another week.


Three metric tons of neatly packed boxes, colorfully labeled and perforated with holes so that the fruit could breathe, towered on both sides of the assembly line. Until the previous winter, the factory manufactured sixty-three tractors a day; then production stopped. The bananas were a new venture of the young would-be acting director…

Read the rest of the story here.

Like Water & Other Stories

I’m delighted to announce my first collection of stories in English, Like Water and Other Stories, will appear later this year from WTAW Press. This news is all the more gratifying because I’ve been a fan and a supporter of this press from their beginning a few years ago, and have loved every book they have put out so far. Check out their website, and here’s the announcement.