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.

“To Understand Russia’s Complexities, Turn to Its Contemporary Literature”

Epiphany published a blog post I wrote, highlighting three fascinating recent translations from Russian.

A FRIEND’S TEN-YEAR-OLD SON son recently came up to me at a party to ask, “You’re from Russia, right?” Sensing caution in my assent, the boy hesitated before asking the next question, clearly trying to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t cause offense but would express his curiosity. He finally came up with, “It’s a very violent place, isn’t it?”

Whenever I’m asked to summarize the entire country of Russia at a party, I invariably recall a scene from a popular Soviet movie…

Click here to read the piece.