Zinaida’s American dream was to find her emigrant mama in the U.S. Now, with her friend Valentine, she’s returning to her native Odessa, Ukraine, during the 2014 Ukrainian Spring (Euromaidan). According to David Bezmozgis, Two Big Differences demonstrates “an intimate and authoritative understanding of contemporary post-Soviet life, especially as it’s experienced by people from Odessa.” It also carries the deep engagement with another language of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words. The novel is a work of literary fiction and is approximately 73,000 words.
Two Big Differences is told in English spoken outside England and Russian spoken outside Russia. In Odessa during the Ukrainian Spring, one’s tongue can determine whether one lives or dies. Attempting to “discover his roots,” Valentine toils to find a place in increasingly sarcastic, increasingly embattled Odessa. Zinaida, or Zina, has returned to her roots, but she must reconcile herself with her motherless motherland.
Influences on Two Big Differences include my work translating the Russian-language poet Marina Eskina in journals such as Asymptote and Cardinal Points, where an excerpt of this novel has also appeared. While the content of Two Big Differences resembles the work of David Bezmozgis and Jonathan Safran Foer, the novel also takes influence from the craft of Rachel Kushner and Jayne Anne Phillips and from Odessan writers such as Isaak Babel, the inimitable duo of Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, and Valentine Kataev.
My work appears in New Madrid, Fiddleblack, The Wax Paper, Ploughshares, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Fiction Writers Review, in which my essay “Of Translation and Politics in Russian Literature” was the most widely read piece of 2016. My still unpublished short story collection, Grow Me Up, was a finalist for the 2020 Tartt Fiction Award. I’ve judged the University of Michigan’s Hopwood Award Contest. I teach Writing at Baruch College and NYC College of Technology. I am also the founder of Kritzler Writers Group.