Author Lara Vapnyar will read from her latest book “The Scent of Pine” on campus on Thursday, Sept. 25. Vapnyar moved from her native Russia to the United States in 1994. She was 23 years old, three months pregnant and could barely speak English, but began to write short stories in her new language. “Love Lessons Mondays, 9 A.M.” was published in The New Yorker in 2003 and she has since gone on to publish a collection of short stories and novels. Vapnyar’s reading and discussion will take place from 7-9 p.m. in the Hirshson Ballroom.
Vapnyar’s visit was coordinated by the Russian Area Studies Department. The topic is relevant to research being conducted by both Assistant Professor of Russian Area Studies Marina Aptekman and by Associate Professor of Russian Studies and chair of the department Kristen Welsh, regarding contemporary Russian-American literature. Some of Welsh’s research focused specifically on Vapnyar.
“It is a great opportunity for students to learn more about contemporary American writers who come from a Jewish-Russian background and, though they have succeeded on American literary scene, are still eager to share with American readers their personal narratives about Russian-Jewish childhood past and their experiences as new emigres in a new motherland,” says Aptekman.
This talk will allow HWS students to broaden their knowledge of different cultures that construct and shape the American socio-cultural melting pot, and think about the ambiguity of emigres, who struggle to balance the old and adopt the new cultural and social identities in the United States.
Aptekman notes it will compliment a course she currently teaches, “From Hasidism to Communism and Back,” which concentrates on the literature and history of Russian and Soviet Jews in the 19th-20th centuries.
Vapnyar’s work has appeared in major publications such as The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine, and she is the author of two story collections, “There are Jews in My House” and “Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love,” as well as a novel, “Memoirs of a Muse.” Her works share many characteristics; they relate an experience with a fascination with outsiders who wish to no longer be segregated, while considering the sacrifices necessary for this transition. For the most part, her stories relate her experience in Russia as well as that of Russian immigrants living in New York.
Vapnyar teaches creative writing at New York University and Columbia University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.
Her talk will be free and open to the public.