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SOPHIA SHALMIYEV discusses her memoir MOTHER WINTER with SARA BENINCASA

Mother Winter (Simon & Schuster)

From Laurels Award Fellowship recipient Sophia Shalmiyev comes the exquisite Mother Winter, a haunting and deeply personal story of fleeing the Soviet Union, where Shalmiyev was forced to abandon her mother, and her subsequent years of searching for surrogate mothers—whether in books, art, lovers, or other lost souls.

Mother Winter is the story of Sophia’s emotional journeys as an immigrant, an artist, and a motherless woman now raising children of her own. Born to a Russian mother and an Azerbaijani father, Shalmiyev grew up in the stark oppressiveness of 1980s Leningrad. When her father packed up for a new life in America, he took Sophia with him but left behind her estranged and alcoholic mother, Elena. At age eleven, Shalmiyev found herself on a plane headed west, motherless and terrified of the new world unfolding before her.

The book depicts in urgent vignettes Sophia’s subsequent years of travel, searching, and forging meaningful connections. She describes her tumultuous childhood in the USSR; her experiences as a refugee; the life she built for herself in the Pacific Northwest; and her cathartic journey back to Russia as an adult to search for the mother she never knew.

Mother Winter is a searing meditation on motherhood, feminism, displacement, gender politics, and the pursuit of wholeness after shattering loss. And ultimately, it is an aching observation of the human heart across time and culture.

Praise for Mother Winter

"A rich tapestry of autobiography and meditations on feminism, motherhood, art, and culture, this book is as intellectually satisfying as it is artistically profound. A sharply intelligent, lyrically provocative memoir."—Kirkus Reviews, ★ Starred Review

“Mother is a circle—a complete and perfect hole.” From that void, the lyrical prose of Sophia Shalmiyev’s memoir, Mother Winter, splits open like layer after layer of an ornate matryoshka. With a mesmeric voice and scathing vulnerability, Shalmiyev peels her past down to its hollow core: the vacancy left by her absent mother"—The Paris Review

Mother Winteris the wrenching story of her exile and grief, but it’s also a chronicle of awakening—to art, sex, feminism, and the rich complexities of becoming a mother herself. Like a punk rock Marguerite Duras, Shalmiyev has reinvented the language of longing. I love this gorgeous, gutting, unforgettable book."—Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

"Mother Winter, Sophia Shalmiyev’s catastrophically bright, wavering motion of a memoir, forged through sticky clouds of pain, is vividly awesome and truly great."—Eileen Myles, author of Evolution

“Shalmiyev stubbornly, brilliantly pursues loss in this psycho-geography of immigration, grief displacement, and damage… Like the great modernist writers, Shalmiyev writes from, not about, trauma but at a pitch that’s witty, dry, sad, and laconic.”—Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

“With sparse, poetic language Shalmiyev builds a personal history that is fractured and raw; a brilliant, lovely ache.”—Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir

Mother Winter slices through the conventions of narrative with the most delicate blade, ribboning what you think you know about memoir, homecoming, what it means to live in a female body, to live as a motherless mother, to be mothered by art and the arms of all that is strong enough to hold you. This book hypnotized me with its beauty and brutality. I feasted on Shalmiyev's sentences and they will stay with me for a long, long time.”—Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me

Sophia Shalmiyev emigrated from Leningrad to NYC in 1990. An MFA graduate of Portland State University, she was the nonfiction editor for The Portland Review and is a recipient of the Laurels scholarship and numerous Kellogg’s fellowship awards. She has a second master’s degree in creative arts therapy from The School of Visual Arts, where she worked with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Her work has appeared in Vela Magazine, Bellows American Review, Electric Lit, The Seattle Review of Books, Ravishly and The Literary Review, among others; all with a feminist lens. She lives in Portland. Visit her website at www.sophiashalmiyev.com for more.

Photo by Thomas Teal

Sara Benincasa is a stand-up comedian, actress, and the author of "Real Artists Have Day Jobs" (William Morrow 2016); "DC Trip" (Adaptive 2015); "Great" (HarperTeen 2014); and "Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom" (William Morrow 2012). She also wrote a very silly joke book called "Tim Kaine Is Your Nice Dad."  In 2017, she adapted "DC Trip" as a screenplay with Bona Fide, Gunpowder & Sky, and Adaptive Studios. She also adapted "Agorafabulous" as a pilot for TV with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody. 

Photo by Alejandra Gatan

Event date: 
Saturday, February 16, 2019 - 5:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Mother Winter: A Memoir Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781501193088
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - February 12th, 2019

Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062369819
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - April 26th, 2016

Great Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062222695
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperTeen - April 8th, 2014

Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062024428
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - April 9th, 2013

DC Trip Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780996488761
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Adaptive Books - January 17th, 2017