Jewish Studies Prof. Maxim D. Shrayer’s New Book: “A Russian Immigrant”

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By Bryant Jones, Chronicle Staff, with info from Brookline based Cherry Orchard Books

Join author Maxim D. Shrayer as he discusses his new book, A Russian Immigrant at the Meeting Room of the Coolidge Corner Branch of the Brookline Public Library on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019, from 7pm – 8:30pm.

A Russian Immigrant is Three Novellas by Maxim D. Shrayer. Simon Reznikov, the Boston-based immigrant protagonist of Maxim D. Shrayer’s A Russian Immigrant, is restless. Unresolved feelings about his Jewish (and American) present and his Russian (and Soviet) past prevent Reznikov from easily putting down roots in his new country. Told both linearly and non-linearly, with elements of suspense, mystery and crime, these three interconnected novellas gradually reveal many layers of the characters’ Russian, Jewish, and Soviet identities.

Maxim D. Shrayer, a translingual author, scholar and translator, is Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College and Director of the Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry at Harvard’s Davis Center. Born in Moscow in 1967 to a writer’s family, Shrayer emigrated to the United States in 1987. He has authored over fifteen books in English and Russian.

No longer at home in Russia, but not quite assimilated into the American mainstream, the daily lives of Russian immigrants are fueled by a combustible mix of success and alienation. Simon Reznikov, the Boston-based immigrant protagonist of Maxim D. Shrayer’s A Russian Immigrant, is restless. Unresolved feelings about his Jewish (and American) present and his Russian (and Soviet) past prevent Reznikov from easily putting down roots in his new country. A visit to a decaying summer resort in the Catskills, now populated by Jewish ghosts of Soviet history, which include a famous émigré writer, reveals to Reznikov that he, too, is a prisoner of his past. An expedition to Prague in search of clues for an elusive Jewish writer’s biography exposes Reznikov’s own inability to move on. A chance reunion with a former Russian lover, now also an immigrant living in an affluent part of Connecticut, unearths memories of Reznikov’s last Soviet summer while reanimating many contradictors of a mixed, Jewish-Russian marriage.

Told both linearly and non-linearly, with elements of suspense, mystery and crime, these three interconnected novellas gradually reveal many layers of the characters’ Russian, Jewish, and Soviet identities. Vectors of love and desire, nostalgia and amnesia, violence and forgiveness, politics and aesthetics guide Shrayer’s immigrant characters while also disorienting them in their new American lives.

Set in Providence, New Haven and Boston, but also in places of the main character’s pilgrimages such as Estonia and Bohemia, Shrayer’s book weaves together a literary manifesto of Russian Jews in America.

“Maxim D. Shrayer’s meticulously crafted and richly nuanced tryptic of novellas reads like a wistful goodbye to the shifting geopolitical and economic landscape on both sides of the pond. A Russian Immigrant is a loving farewell to things past and disintegrated: from the protagonist’s scholarly sojourn in Prague to his nostalgia-drenched memories of romance and brotherly love of his last Soviet vacation in Estonia to the show-stopping comedy pair of elderly ladies in the once popular Catskills resort now on the brink of losing its erstwhile splendor. The sensitive, intelligent and compassionate young Simon Reznikov who never misses his chance to assert his Russian-American biculturalism―and his Jewishness―or follow his heart in pursuit of romantic love, is a joy to observe as he moves from adolescence to early adulthood. Shrayer’s protagonist is bound to take pride of place among other renowned characters of coming-of-age fiction and beyond.” ―Pavel Lembersky, author of Here’s Looking At You, Kid “‘All the new thinking is about loss.

Review copy requests should be directed to: Jenna Colozza, Promotions Manager Cherry Orchard Books jcolozza@academicstudiespress.com 1-617-383-5038

9×6, 130 pages ISBN 978-1644690369 $19.95 Paperback ISBN 978-1644690970 $19.95 eBook Fall 2019 • Boston • Cherry Orchard Books

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