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Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: Little Failure

December 30, 2019 / Comments Off on Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: Little Failure
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Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10 List: Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

Little Failure: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart, is my next book on the Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10 list. It’s not the first or only Russian-Jewish memoir. No, its significance lies in its ability to capture the complexities of becoming an American (and does so in a way that resonates for Canadian readers, too), and leaving behind the Soviet world.

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Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: small things left behind

December 29, 2019 / Comments Off on Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: small things left behind
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SovietJewish Decade Top 10 List: small things left behind by Ella Zeltserman

My seventh book for the Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10 is an award-winning poetry book, small things left behind. Full disclosure — the author is my mother, Ella Zeltserman. This is my most deeply personal, and yes, very biased, selection for the list.

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Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: A Replacement Life

December 26, 2019 / Comments Off on Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10: A Replacement Life
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Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10 - A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

Today’s pick for the Soviet-Jewish Decade Top 10 list is Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life. I first read it in 2014 when it came out, and somehow, with the politics of the last few years, the book feels more important now than it did then — less for the insight into Slava’s split identity, and more for the close-up of his grandfather’s generation.

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Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

January 15, 2019 / Comments Off on Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov
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Operation Wedding escape plan graphic, designed by Armands Blumbergs.

A while ago I interviewed Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov for an article about her award-winning documentary, Operation Wedding, still one of just a tiny handful of docs on the Soviet-Jewish immigration. It’s the story of her parents’ attempt to escape the USSR in 1970, by hijacking an empty plane and flying it across the border to Sweden.…

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Lost in Immigration: People I Will Never Know

December 31, 2018 /
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This photo was taken a few nights before we left the Soviet Union forever. To my knowledge, it is the only photo that exists of me with all my (at that time living) grandparents. That’s them, in the front row. My paternal grandmother, then my maternal grandfather (holding me), and my maternal grandmother next to…

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No Air Canada, I don’t want a Russian flag on my face

March 12, 2018 /
Canadian Soviet flag mash-up symbolizing Canadian diversity advertising

Readers! I took a blogging break and it accidentally stretched into too many years (with a few exceptions here and here). Dipping my toe back in more officially now. On my mind this week is Canadian diversity advertising, brought to you by this Only-in-Canada spot from Air Canada that aired during the Olympics, called “Our Time.”…

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Stumbling into Syrian cuisine while searching for a Soviet-Russian seder tradition

April 7, 2017 / Comments Off on Stumbling into Syrian cuisine while searching for a Soviet-Russian seder tradition
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Soviet-Russian seder traditions - Syrian Roasted Lamb Shanks recipe

It starts, as these things so often do, with food. My (non-Jewish) partner and I, recently reunited after a short separation, in the sad bachelor apartment where he had temporarily landed. Where familiar, lonely kitchen things still glared at me woefully, bereft of their mates that had landed up in my kitchen. Where we bumped into each…

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American dreams and the state of statelessness

April 10, 2014 / Comments Off on American dreams and the state of statelessness
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Jasper Johns American flag painting at the MOMA

My review of Stateless documentary in Tablet When I was at Limmud last month, I had a chance to see a new documentary on the Soviet-Jewish immigration of the late ’80s, called Stateless. I also got to write a Stateless documentary review for Tablet Magazine and naturally, I think you should go read it. The…

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12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

March 13, 2014 /
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Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - showing Kremlin

After my last post, one of my cousins got nostalgic for her old Bukvar and thought she’d try to buy one online. She found one on Amazon, to the tune of $2,450. My heart is breaking that I didn’t have the fortitude to do anything more useful with mine than mark it all up for…

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Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian

March 5, 2014 / Comments Off on Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian
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Russian bukvhar from 1970s

I wrote a bit last time about one of my ‘immigrant identity crisis’ vignettes that I shared at the Limmud retreat. But it started with an assignment, to bring an artifact, or object, from home about our Russian-Jewish heritage. When you and your childhood home are separated by over 3,000km, digging up an acceptable artifact…

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