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

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.

Reading in Sausalito


I’m excited to participate in the seventh anniversary of Why There Are Words reading series. rom the beginning, founder Peg Alford Pursell and her team have been fostering a sense of camaraderie between writers and readers, providing such necessary opportunities for all of us to connect. This night promises to be all that! Come come come.

When: 7 pm on January 12, 2017

Where: Studio 333, 333 Caledonia St. Sausalito, CA

Why There Are Words will celebrate its 7th anniversary Jan. 12, 2017! “Lucky Seven + One to Grow On” will feature the following eight acclaimed authors who’ve appeared at WTAW over the past seven years. Additionally, the publishing arm, WTAW Press will announce the selection of the first two titles it will publish in 2017. AND, we’ll toast the launch of WTAW’s national neighborhood of readings in New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Portland and Austin, set to begin in February. Join us at Studio 333 in Sausalito. Doors open at 7pm; readings begin at 7:15. $10 (cash or check).

Afghan-American author Tamim Ansary wrote West of Kabul, East of New York, San Francisco’s  “One City One Book” selection for 2008, as well as the best-selling Destiny Disrupted, A history of the world through Islamic Eyes. His latest book, Road Trips, is about dropping out of a society he wasn’t even a part of.  He lives with his wife Deborah and his cat Raoul in San Francisco, where he teaches memoir writing workshops dedicated to the proposition that if no one remembers it, it didn’t happen. His work-in-progress is a meta-history of the world: Ripple Effects, How we all came to be so interconnected and why we’re still fighting. He hopes that if writing it doesn’t kill him, it will make him stronger.

Rebecca Foust’s most recent book, Paradise Drive, won the Press 53 Poetry Award and is nominated for the 2016 Poets’ Prize. It was widely reviewed, in the Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. Recognitions include the American Literary Review Fiction Award, the James Hearst Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Frost Place, MacDowell, and Sewanee.

Joan Frank is the author of six books of fiction, and a book of collected essays. Her new novel, All the News I Need, won the 2016 Juniper Prize for Fiction, and will be published next month (February 2017) by the University of Massachusetts Press. (Yes, it is possible to pre-order, and Joan will be thrilled and wildly grateful if you do.) Her last novel, Make It Stay, won the Dana Portfolio Award; her last story collection, In Envy Country, won the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction, the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and was named a finalist for the California Book Award. Her last book of collected essays, Because You Have To: A Writing Life, also won the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award. Joan holds an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. Recipient of many grants, fellowships and literary honors, Joan is also a frequent reviewer of literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in the North Bay Area of California.

Evan and Miles Karp are Turk & Divis, an intersection where chance, rhythm, and processed repetition collide with modified fragments of language to form serendipitous anthems and intimate, often polyvocal meditations inside of those anthems. Old school samples and some of tomorrow’s most unusual hits @ turkanddivis.bandcamp.com. Evan is also the mastermind behind Quiet Lightning and Litseen.

Kate Milliken’s debut collection of stories, If I’d Known You Were Coming, won the John Simmons Award for Short Fiction, judged by Julie Orringer, and was published by the University of Iowa Press. The recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Tin House, Yaddo, and several pushcart nominations, Kate’s stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Fiction, and the Santa Monica Review, among others. In 2009, Kate and her family moved from Los Angeles to the suburban wilds of Mill Valley, where they knew almost no one. Soon after, in search of a writing community, Kate wrote to an instructor she found online. That instructor was Peg Alford Pursell.

Joshua Mohr is the author of five novels, including Damascus, which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.”  He’s also written Fight Song and Some Things that Meant the World to Me, one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as Termite Parade, an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times. His novel All This Life won the Northern California Book Award. His first book of nonfiction, a memoir called Sirens, is out this January 2017.

Naomi J. Williams is the author of Landfalls (FSG 2015), long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as Zoetrope: All-Story, A Public Space, One Story, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review. A five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and one-time winner, Naomi has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis. Naomi was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Today she lives in Davis, California, where she teaches creative writing and serves as co-director of the literary series Stories on Stage Davis. She’s hard at work on new writing projects, including a novel about the early 20th-century Japanese poet Yosano Akiko.

Olga Zilberbourg was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to the United States at the age of seventeen. In 2016, her third book of fiction in Russian was published in Moscow-based Vremya Press. Olga’s English-language fiction has appeared in and is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, World Literature Today, Feminist Studies, California Prose Directory, Narrative Magazine, Santa Monica Review, and other print and online publications. Olga serves as a consulting editor at Narrative Magazine and is a co-moderator of the San Francisco Writers Workshop.

Why There Are Words takes place every second Thursday of the month, when people come from all over the Bay Area to crowd the house. The brainchild of Peg Alford Pursell, this literary goodness celebrates seven years of presenting voices that need to be heard. Why There Are Words is, of 2017, a national neighborhood of readings, taking place in NYC, LA, Pittsburgh, Portland, and Austin. Its publishing arm is WTAW Press.


Recent reading

My friend Peg Alford Pursell who runs a luminous reading series, Why There Are Words, in Sausalito, has recently started an independent press. She’s been reading submissions to find the first two books, to publish in the next year. (For those of you with manuscripts: The submission period closes September 15, 2016.) Whatever she chooses, will have to serve as the face of the new press, will be seen as its representative work. Then, hopefully, the second year follows, and the new selection process, that will give us a more rounded understanding of what kind of publisher WTAW Press is. A great press, I suppose, is like a great character: always surprising, always engaging.

Peg recently asked me to contribute to her newsletter a list of books that I’ve been reading. Here’s the write-up on some of my favorites.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you haven’t read it yet, do. It’s a funny and poignant page-turner about a popular blogger, Ifemelu, who decided to return to Nigeria after many years in the United States. Commentary on racism, colonialism and globalism, culture shock, family dynamics is held together by a sweet and ultimately satisfying love story.

Gabriel: A Poem by Edward Hirsch. This is a book-length poem published a few years after the sudden death of the poet’s adopted son, Gabriel. The tercets of this poem lead a reader through the journey of the young man’s last hours, through his life’s story, through the story of the father’s bereavement. No platitudes apply. This book does not uplift the reader and doesn’t leave her enlightened; the poet doesn’t get a break from his grief; the son’s neurological and mental health issues are portrayed in all their messiness. This book doesn’t make grief interesting—it puts into words what grief is.

Fair Play by Tove Jansson. In Europe (she lived in Helsinki, Finland and wrote in Swedish) Jansson is best known for her comic strip about the Moomin family that started out as a political cartoon and after WWII turned into wildly successful books for children. Fair Play was published when Jansson was seventy-five, and is a collection of stories about the relationship between a comic book author and her partner, a visual artist. Though Jansson was never publicly out as a lesbian, this book provides a fascinating glimpse into her intense creative and personal relationship with artist Tuulikki Pietilä.

In The Price of Water in Finistère by Bodil Malmsten, fifty-five year old author moves from her home in Sweden to Brittany, in France, the Finistère département. Her descriptions of settling in the new place, fixing her house, breaking a garden are intertwined with her memories of growing up in a remote northern village in Sweden. I particularly enjoyed reading about a happy moment in a woman’s life: she has come into her own and is ready to stake her claim in the world. She proceeds with humor and poetry.

Here is another shout-out to My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. I first heard of this book through this newsletter—thank you, Peg. I read it and I loved it. It was recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and I’m rooting for it. It’s a powerful novel about the long-term effects of poverty and violence.

The Door by Magda Szabo. This novel comes to us from Hungary, and is also, in part, autofiction. The author’s relationship with her housekeeper reads as a thriller, in one breath, from the beginning to the horrifying and gruesome end. What makes this book really work is the complexity of characterizations Szabo achieves. The two main women love and care for each other, but somehow in the course of the narrative these feelings turn against them.

The latest review I published in The Common was of Memories by the early twentieth century Russian author Teffi. By the time of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Teffi had nearly a dozen books to her name, and new printings of her story collections sold out instantly. With Lenin at the helm of the government, her fame became a liability. Memories opens with Teffi being talked into going on tour to Ukraine, the trip that became her journey out of Russia.

Last but not least, a shout-out to opera. This September, San Francisco Opera is staging Dream of the Red Chamber—based on the 18th Century Chinese novel by Cao Xueqin, adapted to the stage by Davin Henry Hwang of M. Butterfly fame. The novel is an epic series of tragic love triangles and an education about Chinese culture of the era. In the English translation, it runs 2,339 pages long.That’s 2,339 pages of total fascination, people!