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Could it be that we are at a point of oversaturation and a critical juncture: How much more is there for this literature to say?
Perhaps this is, more generally, a challenge of immigrant fiction as well as fiction by writers who come from strong ethno-cultural communities. There are plenty of “meta” bits in this year’s books by Soviet-born émigré writers, and they add up to these authors’ evident understanding that a break from the fictions that are hybrid memoirs may be timely.
Slava’s essay is one of two submitted: He had been asked to write the piece in a competition with another eager junior employee.
The editorial board votes down Slava’s contribution because it doesn’t stick to the assignment. For Slava, this rejection stings: He had tied his American aspirations to success at , but the magazine doesn’t appear to be interested in what he has to say—because he says it about himself.
In Fishman’s novel, the stories that Slava’s grandmother never shared and that, after her death, he is compelled to invent in her stead, become the hook that keeps Slava in the Russian Jewish immigrant fold.
He has attempted to escape this community two years earlier when he decided that he needed to become an American—specifically, an American who could be a writer with a style free of “the pollution that repossessed him every time he returned to the swamp broth of Soviet Brooklyn.” This plan hasn’t worked very well.