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.

Review of LIKE WATER in the Moscow Times

I’m tremendously grateful to writer Anna Kasradze and editor Michele Berdy of The Moscow Times for publishing a thoughtful review of my upcoming English-language debut.

The thread connecting these tales is each protagonist’s attempt to come to terms with an identity that is always in flux, transitioning between various contexts such as emigration, motherhood, partnership, and employment. For this reason, bicultural readers of varied backgrounds will likely hear their own experiences resonating with this collection. Together, the 52 stories of “Like Water and Other Stories” offer shards of spacetime and leave the reader to piece them together. This format consistently frustrates the reader’s search for one big takeaway or one favorite character, but it allows the reader to experience alongside the characters their struggle for takeaways and coherent selves. <…>

Read the whole piece here.

Book Events

The publication date for my debut English-language book LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES is approaching on September 5. If you are in the Bay Area, please come to the book party on September 12, 7 pm at Studio 333, Sausalito, CA. We will be celebrating my book together with Anita Felicelli’s novel CHIMERICA. Peg Alford Pursell, our publisher and the author of A GIRL GOES INTO THE FOREST, will host the event that will include a reading, a conversation, wine and cake.

I’m particularly delighted that, as a part of my book tour, I’ll be able to return to Rochester, New York, where I first landed when I came to the US in 1996. I look forward to visiting RIT and catching up with old friends as a part of this adventure. My Rochester event is scheduled for November 9th, 7:30 pm at Java’s in downtown Rochester — more information about that soon.

Below are two more upcoming Bay Area readings. More events are in the works, and I will update you as the book tour comes together!

On October 5 at 7 pm, I will be in conversation with Nancy Au, author of SPIDER LOVE SONG AND OTHER STORIES, at E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore, Oakland, CA

On October 7 at 7 pm, I will participate in Odd Mondays reading series at Folio Books, San Francisco, CA

Thank you for all of you who have pre-ordered my book — you should be receiving it soon. If you’d like to pre-order your copy of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES, you can do it here.

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!