People the Size of Mountains: Q&A with Olga Zilberbourg

My interview with Maddie King of Bloom.

Bloom

by Maddie King

Olga Zilberbourg is a Russian-American writer who lives in San Francisco and was born during the Cold War. She has three published collections in Russia: The Clapping Land, published by Vremya Press in 2016, The Keys from the Lost House, published by Limbus Press in 2010, and Coffee-Inn, published by Neva Press in 2006.

Like Water and Other Stories, published by WTAW Press in 2019, is Zilberbourg’s first collection of short stories to come out in the United States. Previously, her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Narrative Magazine, World Literature Today, Confrontation, Feminist Studies, Tin House’s The Open Bar, Epiphany, Santa Monica Review, and other print and online publications. 

 I read Like Water and Other Stories in the early days of August, and no other time of year could have better suited. This collection, so fittingly-named, pools stories of…

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Review of Like Water

I love that this reviewer pointed out “Ada.” It’s an important story for me, and I deeply care for the character, but I never did find a home for it in a lit mag. It’s so great to see Ada hold her own in the collection.

“My favorite story, “Ada at Twelve and a Half,” felt of these the most utterly specific and intensely imagined, the kind of story that reads not like a fiction but a detailed reporting of an actual event, the log of an inner life. It’s about a little girl who wishes she didn’t have to go to school–who wants so much to walk past it to anywhere, anything must be better than this, she wants so much to be someone, somewhere different–but she ends up in her classroom “where she will sit, trying, and failing, to accept the ordinary.”

Book news

LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES is officially out now and available for purchase from WTAW Press. It’s also available on Amazon.

I’m delighted with the reception the book has had so far, including this review in the Moscow Times.

The launch party in Sausalito is this Thursday, September 12. If you’re local, I’d love to see you. Studio 333, 7 pm.

Here’s a list of a few more upcoming book events (and more are to come):
 

September 16, 7:30 pm:  San Francisco, The Bindery — a reading with Flash Fiction Collective

October 5, 7 pm:  Oakland, Wolfman Booksa reading and conversation with Nancy Au

October 7, 6:30 pm:  San Francisco, Folio Books — a reading with the Odd Mondays series

October 13, 1 pm:  San Francisco, Writers’ Studio, 195 De Haro Street — The Art of the Short Story panel at Litquake

October 19, 6:30 pm:  San Francisco, Third Haus, 455 Valencia St.  — WTAW Press reading at Lit Crawl

November 3, 6 pm:  New York City, Bowery Club — a reading with Why There Are Words NYC

November 9, 7 pm:  Rochester, New York, Java’s Cafe — a reading and conversation with Olga Livshin and Dmitri Manin

December 14, 7 pm: San Francisco, CA, The Make-Out Room — Writers with Drinks

December 26, 7 pm: San Francisco, CA, Martuni’s — Literary Speakeasy

Event Announcement: Two Olgas and One Genrikh: Russian Poems, Stories, & Shirts

Punctured Lines

When: Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 7 PM – 10 PM EST
Where: Java’s Cafe, 16 Gibbs St, Rochester, New York 14604

Join us for a lively evening of stories, poems, and performance art by nonconformist writers from the former Soviet Union, in English.

Olga Livshin‘s book A LIFE REPLACED braids together poems on immigration in America with translations from Anna Akhmatova and our contemporary Vladimir Gandelsman, winner of Russia’s highest award for poetry, the Moscow Reckoning. Many poems are responses to these two voices; some are stand-alone works. Maggie Smith comments: “Livshin, who immigrated to the US from Russia as a child, acknowledges the two Americas she knows firsthand: the one that fears and demonizes, and the one that welcomes. A LIFE REPLACED is astonishingly beautiful, intelligent, and important.”

A graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, Olga Zilberbourg will introduce her English-language short story collection LIKE WATER AND…

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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.