Review: Olga Zilberbourg’s English-Language Debut, “Like Water and Other Stories”

My deep gratitude to Yelena Furman for this review at the NYC Jordan Center’s blog:

In addition to its experiments with style, this collection offers new possibilities for telling immigrant stories, particularly those of women. With some exceptions, such as Vapnyar’s Memoirs of a Muse and Ulinich’s Petropolis, and despite the preponderance of female writers and protagonists, Russian-American fiction does not focus on gender, and occasionally exhibits elements of “traditional” thinking on the subject. In contrast, Zilberbourg offers a feminist exploration of the straightjacket of gender clichés in pieces like “My Sister’s Game,” which details the enraged attempts by the narrator’s older sister to head off male romantic interest during a tennis match. As the narrator puts it, “It took me many years and a lot of learning […] to understand that moment as my first realization of Zoika’s refusal to conform to the norms of her gender.” This statement illustrates the narrator’s own understanding of the perniciousness of these norms, even as the story leaves open the question of whether her sister is able to thwart them.

http://jordanrussiacenter.org/news/review-olga-zilberbourgs-english-language-debut-like-water-and-other-stories/

Aspiring Writers Beware: The Art of the Short Story Panel, Sunday

I’m one of the panelists for this event coming to San Francisco’s Litquake this Sunday.

Sunday October 13, 2019 1:00pm – 2:15pm
California College of the Arts, Writers’ Studio195 De Haro St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Co-presented by MFA Writing at CCA

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams.” —Neil Gaiman

Join four short fiction authors as they talk about their craft. Featuring Olga Zilberbourg, Keenan Norris, Mimi Lok, and Beth Piatote. Moderated by Peg Alford Pursell. $12 adv / $15 door

More details, including everyone’s bios, on Litquake’s website.

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

Barrelhouse Reviews: Like Water by Olga Zilberbourg

Like Water contains 52 stories of varying length. Stories should be enjoyed one per sitting, with time to savor after each. Many of them contain layered perspectives, and Zilberbourg focuses particularly on communication in its moment of breakdown. Those moments benefit from unfolding time. “Rubicon” opens the collection, setting the pace–fast, active reading time with extended mental work–and a magical vibe. Characters experience time slips and revisit decisions that mark moments of no return. 

Read the rest of this review by Alissa Gillon on Barrelhouse Magazine.