Book Club

Listener Checks In: What It Means To Be Russian


Muscovites wait for bread, December 1993. Michael Evstafiev/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Evstafiev/AFP/Getty Images



Nina Charnotskaia on the lasting effects of hardship in Russia.

BPP listener Nina Charnotskaia came to the United States from the collapsing Soviet Union when she was 11 years old. So our latest BPP Book Club selection, Anya Ulinich's Petropolis — which tells the story of Russian immigrant Sasha Goldberg — really resonated with her. Charnotskaia, who lives in San Diego, told us that because she started speaking with an American accent soon after she moved here, people have often challenged her "Russianness." But she's never lost her sense that being Russian is an important part of her identity. She talked with us about what that means to her.

We'll be discussing the book here on the blog on July 9, a week from today. So get reading, if you haven't already!

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I lived in Moscow from 1992-1996 as a American teenager. It was an amazing time in my life. Although I am not Russian, my years in Russia made me who I am today. I can't wait to read this book and contribute to the book club.

Sent by Liam | 2:47 PM | 7-2-2008

"Petropolis" does present the reader with the idea of regionalism, in both Russia and the United States. The question that never gets answered for Sasha is: Why do you mourn a way of life that you have spent your adult life running from? A a conflict, it tends to create, in least how I was reading it, a very selfish protagonist ( which may or may not be Ulinich's goal).

Sent by Jeff | 10:38 AM | 7-5-2008

I finished it! And right on time! Am looking forward to tomorrow's discussion.

And Jeff - I think it is perfectly natural that an ex-pat should think about the meaning/definition of home and the main figure did well to go back regularly in order to help answer this question. Why does that make Sasha selfish? She is dealing with her problem by confronting it straight on. That's cool.

Sent by Rebecca in Berlin | 6:41 PM | 7-8-2008