Book Club

Next Up for the Book Club: 'Petropolis'


Jump in: We're reading Petropolis. hide caption

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I first heard of Anya Ulinich when I saw her read at a literary conference last winter, as one of the National Book Foundation's "Five Under 35." What I heard there—part of an unpublished short story—made me want much, much more.

Fortunately, as I discovered, Ulinich's debut novel, Petropolis, is every bit as funny, smart, moving and surprising as the story she read from that day. In the novel, Ulinich, who emigrated from Russia to America with her family when she was 17, tells the story of another immigrant — Sasha Goldberg. Sasha is part-black and part-Jewish, a misfit in the industrial Siberian town where she grows up, Asbestos 2, and equally a misfit in the US, where she comes as a mail-order bride.

But I don't want to give away too much. Get the book. It's out in paperback and Kindle. I can't wait to read it with you.

An autobiographical essay by Ulinich from the New York Times.
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I keep thinking "Persepolis" when I read "Petropolis". And they seem to be very different works (although both by female authors)!

Sent by eliz.s. (@elizs) | 2:22 PM | 6-11-2008

Who's performing the Reading Rainbow theme? I love it.

Sent by lisa | 3:03 PM | 6-11-2008

There is music I like, music I don't like, and music that makes me lunge for the off button. That version of Reading Rainbow fell solidly in the last camp. I guess there's no pleasing everyone.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:38 PM | 6-11-2008

The Animations, i think

Sent by masked_superstar | 5:02 PM | 6-11-2008

@lisa, It's a group called "The Burial." I found them on itunes and know nothing about them. I will warn, you, that the parts of the song you didn't hear contain explicit language.
@Dave Wiley, sorry!

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 5:32 PM | 6-11-2008

@elizs, I know, I was even worried I would say "Persepolis" on the air. They are very different in some ways (traditional novel versus graphic novel, most obviously), but there are similarities. Both heroines are funny and rebellious and get stranded outside their native cultures because their native cultures just can't sustain them. Plus, they're both great books.

Hope you enjoy this one.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 8:07 PM | 6-11-2008

Oh, and @Dave Wiley, I hope lunging for the off button on the Burial's tune won't stop you from reading the book!

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 8:09 PM | 6-11-2008

@Sarah Goodyear: "I hope lunging for the off button on the Burial's tune won't stop you from reading the book!"

No worries. The book is winging it's way here as I write this. Coincidentally I have recently been reading stories by another Russian emigrant, Isaac Babel. It will be interesting to compare the points of view.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 9:04 PM | 6-11-2008

To be honest I'm a hard sell when it comes to contemporary fiction. Most seems to fall under the category "we laughed, we cried, but in the end we learned something about ourselves." Is that snarky?

But I'll give it a go. The reviews say it is funny and I could use a good laugh after all the Haruki Murakami I've been reading.

Nathan aka Booksnob

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 3:49 AM | 6-12-2008

@Nathan in Holland, I'm afraid I'm nearly as much of a snob as you, although--as Murakami demonstrates--contemporary fiction is hardly a monolith. I do think there's good stuff being written today. I hope you like this one.

@Dave Wiley, I love Babel. But he wasn't an emigrant (although he might have saved his life if he had been). His family left the Soviet Union for Paris, but he hung on, and Stalin finished him off.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 7:44 AM | 6-12-2008

@Sarah Goodyear "But he wasn't an emigrant (although he might have saved his life if he had been)."

Right you are. I was under the mistaken impression that he had followed his wife to Paris. He was somewhat peripatetic but always returned home.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 9:46 AM | 6-12-2008

@Dave Wiley, I kind of like imagining a parallel universe in which Babel remains in Paris with his family. There's a Nabokov story in there somewhere.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 10:26 AM | 6-12-2008

Petroplis is now available on the Kindle.

Sent by Jennifer Broomfield | 11:54 AM | 6-12-2008

I don't like to whine (okay, yes I do), but I have a delivery date of June 26th to July 9th, which is annoying. I swear I won't tell anyone if I get early word on the books. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.

Sent by Kymm in Barcelona | 5:11 PM | 6-12-2008

I got my copy of Petropolis in the mail today! I, too, first thought it was Persopolis we would be reading and would have been happy about that too. I read a few pages when a friend of mine brought it to work and found it quite amusing.

Can't wait to get started!

Sent by Rebecca in Berlin | 5:47 PM | 6-23-2008

Just wanted to share that I listen to the BPP podcast religiously from Moscow, Russia. (Bummer that I can't get this book here!) Thanks for putting on a great show - it's a fun way to stay in touch with life Stateside!

Sent by katie | 2:32 PM | 6-29-2008

I'm almost finished reading the book, and I really like it. When's the discussion going to be, again?

Sent by Cinder Conlon | 7:29 AM | 7-1-2008