It's perhaps not surprising that with his third novel, Gary Shteyngart should shift his focus from Russia (the setting of his first two novels) to the United States. The novelist was born in Leningrad in 1972 and immigrated to the United States as a young boy. He attended Oberlin College in Ohio, where he received a degree in politics, and Hunter College in New York City, where he received his MFA in creative writing.
Shteyngart's Russian Jewish roots and his American upbringing both inform his fiction, providing him with both an insider's knowingness and an outsider's perspective. In his debut novel The Russian Debutante's Handbook, a failed immigrant returns to his native country, designing financial scams to prey on clueless Americans hoping to make a buck in the ex-Soviet Union. His second novel, Absurdistan, is about a fat, wealthy Russian man who attends college in the United States only to return to a country he neither appreciates nor understands.
Super Sad True Love Story's connections to Russia are less direct, perhaps, but no less relevant, as the hero, Lenny Abramov, grapples to understand not only his own confused reactions to the rapidly changing American landscape but also his complex relationships with his Russian immigrant parents as well as Eunice's even more fraught relations with her Korean immigrant parents. In a future where America's economic prospects are dire at best, where China, India, and, yes, Russia are the real superpowers, the immigrant experience is more complicated than ever, and Shteyngart is well positioned to address these complexities with perceptiveness and humor.
This article is from the September 8, 2010 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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