LIKE WATER gets a review in LARB, shared with Olga Livshin's poetry collection “A Life Replaced”

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/

Podcast interview by Jennifer Eremeeva

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/

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

Short-form interview with Olga Zilberbourg in Epiphany blog

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!

Read the full interview in Epiphany blog.

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

Review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES in The Manchester Review

Alicia J. Rouverol, a writer and a scholar based in the UK, wrote about my book in The Manchester Review. The anglophone corner of my heart where I store my memories of learning by heart “Down Whitehall street, there’s a square, Trafalgar Square” from my Soviet English textbook in 7th grade, couldn’t be more pleased with this development!

In the remarkable Like Water and Other Stories (WTAW Press), released in September 2019, Zilberbourg offers a collection of shorts that call us to query our sense of time and place, mortality, and most especially identity. Her topics range from migration and mobility, to parenthood and miscarriage; settings feature rural Russia to urban America (Rochester, NY; San Francisco; among others). Global place/displacement serves as a centrepoint of the collection, making this volume particularly timely. Yet it is Zilberbourg’s play with the story form in this collection that draws us in, inviting a re-consideration of how collections can at once reveal substantive stand-alone works and generate a body of work united as a whole. The blend of ‘story play’ in combination with themes that reverberate in these times makes this a collection especially rich and worthy of reading and contemplating.

http://www.themanchesterreview.co.uk/?p=11103

It’s a lovely in-depth piece — please click through to read the rest.

My Interview in Write or Die Tribe

Thanks to Sam Cohen and Write or Die Tribe for allowing me the opportunity to tell stories behind the stories.

Each of your characters feels like a real person when reading the collection, and the first-person narratives make the stories even more convincing. Is there any part of yourself reflected in these characters, or are their thoughts and words entirely fictionalized? 

There are lots of versions of me in this book. One of the most personal—by which I mean the least crafted—stories in this collection might be “Practice a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual,” about a mother watching her son thrash in his crib after she’s given him an albuterol inhaler for his asthma. This piece started its life as a Facebook post, I believe. 

https://www.writeordietribe.com/spotlight-series/interview-with-olga-zilberbourg

Upcoming Events: Heading to New York!

I’ve loved seeing so many friends come out to my events in the Bay Area, and I am delighted to be heading to New York State this weekend. I’ll be participating in two events:

November 3rd, New York City, 6 pm at the Bowery Poetry Club — I’ll be appearing as a part of Why There Are Words event featuring five other excellent readers. I’m particularly excited to reconnect with Melissa Valentine, a recent transplant from the Bay Area. Get tickets here.

November 9th, Rochester, New York, 7:30 at Java’s Cafe downtown — I’ll be introducing my book alongside to celebrating the publication of Olga Livshin’s hybrid book of translated and original poetry and also featuring Dmitri Manin’s translations from avant-garde writer Genrikh Sapgir. I’m expecting this to be very festive