Юморина (Yumorina)

I’ve made mistakes in Russian. That’s the only way to learn. I’ve learned a lot. Unable to remember the word for fruit, once I said, I love the chocolate nipple. I meant to say, I love the chocolate with juice.

Another bad day was when I needed a toothbrush. I had seen kiosks that had shaving cream, kiosks that had bird seed. I thought a kiosk attended by an attractive young woman must have had a toothbrush. I approached unprepared. When I came to her and she brightened up at my approach, I said Do you have… I had forgotten the word for brush. Teeth? I put an imaginary toothbrush in my mouth and used my tongue to push my cheek out sideways. She gasped at me, horrified, and shook her head. “No!” she said and slammed the shutter of the kiosk in closing it. Once I understood, shame sucked me to the ground. A crow there cawed and hopped around the corner as if on her way to tell other crows about my ridiculous mistake. If you still don’t understand, face a mirror, ask your reflection if they have teeth, put an imaginary toothbrush in your mouth, push your cheek out with the imaginary toothbrush, and watch.

-from Chapter Eleven of Two Big Differences

“A Dreamscape of Longing”

Odessa Black Sea

I’m very honored for this very personal review by the writer Kim Liao in The Rumpus.

It was important to note that the invasion of Ukraine happening right now is very real and that people there should be at the center of our thoughts and prayers now. I thanked some people there at the end of Two Big Differences. I’m very concerned for their safety at this time and am trying to remain in contact.

Little Histories of Post-Soviet People

Russia has invaded Ukraine. Five years ago I wouldn’t have believed it when I was writing this review, republished by Fiction Writers Review. It seems to me that there is still a lot to be learned, especially by us Americans, when it comes to letting others (like Ukrainians at this particular time) define their own path and tell of their experience.

Most of all, it’s in these stories that we’ll find the hope that this horrible invasion will end. Listening to the needs of Ukrainian people is the only hope we have at this point.

Support for Ukraine

Ukrainians have the right to *NOT* be invaded.

Ukraine is a unique, distinct culture, one not “created by the Soviets” as Putin says in his revisionist history.

Here are some ways of supporting Ukrainians during this time:

Razom (“together” in Ukrainian) coordinates delivery of medical supplies into Ukraine.

Ukraine Global Scholars is urging universities to support Ukrainian students.

I’ll update this list as I find more resources. Please feel free to reach out if you have any ideas.

Influences on *Two Big Differences*

When I finished Torrey Peters Detransition, Baby, I read past the ending into Peters’ “Top 10” influences on her fantastic novel. Peters had released books before, but she had never experienced the mainstream success that Detransition, Baby has enjoyed. It was a good model, so I made my own list, except that, in true odd fashion, it’s 11 books (and I make no claim whatsoever as to it being complete).

You can see it here on the website 2bigdifferences.page.

Is That a Joke? God She Wished It Was…

A voice boomed in the first room of the office. A chair rolled and slammed to the floor. The boom said, We wouldn’t want this very important work to fall into the wrong hands, like those of the fascists in Kiev. So, we’ll take some of these materials under our own protection.

This voice caused her to fall back on her upbringing. Zina fell back into the hustle and drive, which an Odessitka inherits. Her arms, hands, and fingers began moving in concert to gather as much of the real archive, the paper and ink diaries themselves, as they could and place these items into her large bag. These items she treated like passports. She knew immediately with an unconscious genetic memory that she would need them to cross a border, or some other surface like that of the place where water meets air. On the other side, she was unsure whether she could breathe without these documents.

The voice sounded much like that of Volodya. The voice sounded like the version of his voice he used to disguise himself. It was a voice spoken from behind a mask.

Zina entered the room where Nastya and Dasha were trying to confront the men. It’s a matter of respect for the privacy of the witnesses and their families, Dasha said. As another man started carrying
a box out, she said, Many of these are the only versions of such documents.

More the reason, Volodya said.

Who are you? Under which authority do you act? Zina asked.

He turned his head to her and chuckled. He said, We’re Russians. We’re Soviet, imperial patriots.

Of what? Odessa? Is that a joke? God, she wished it was.

-Ch. 14 of Two Big Differences by Ian Ross Singleton

Adjuncts, Unions, and Standing Up

As I write, union members from my union, the PSC, are joining striking Columbia graduate workers of SWC-UAW local 2110. I offer solidarity to the Columbia workers. I recently learned of somebody who worked at Columbia and who, like me, worked at Baruch College and Fordham University. His name was Jonathon Appels, and he was an adjunct who worked at several colleges, as you can read in his obituary here.

I received two “Sad News” emails from the two English departments in which I work last Friday. Both were about Jonathon Appels. And, even though I didn’t know him, I felt an immediate solidarity and sadness at his death. The similarities between our work lives, both adjuncts at Fordham and Baruch, struck me. For me, the labor struggle centers on changing, on very significantly reforming if not completely overhauling the exploitative adjunct faculty system that requires us adjuncts to work at multiple universities in order to sustain ourselves. What reform or overhaul means is that adjuncts should not be the majority of the workforce and that there should be much much much more opportunity for long-term adjuncts to move into full-time positions rather than be full-time part-timers, adjuncts who teach up to 75 students yet are still considered “part-time.”

Since I’m a fiction writer first and foremost, I should mention a novel that gives light to this issue: We Want Everything by Nanni Balestrini.

A Worker Begins to Wake Up

It begins with a worker from Southern Italy moving north to work at Fiat. At first, he simply wants to make money and work as little as possible. However, this situation slowly turns into a consciousness of how capitalism exploits the worker.

Awakening Consciousness

And there are critiques of not only bosses but union officials who attempt to control and diffuse the workers’ movement.

This person sounds awful.

The Autonomia movement of 1970s Italy marked a critique of the Communist Party in Italy, the unions, and the old Left. Similarly, I have felt disappointed and frustrated by many in my union who don’t seem to agree that the two-tier, exploitative adjunct system needs severe reduction and/or dismantling.

However, as the Columbia graduate workers are showing us, people are willing to stand up for better working conditions, better pay, people who have survived this crisis so far and have become aware that many institutions have used the crisis to exploit workers further when the crisis has shown that the only way forward is one of solidarity. Solidarity is the only option. Anything else is a leftover ignorance of the pre-pandemic foregone world.