This month in Between the Lines Book Club we are reading Little Failure, a memoir by Gary Shteyngart. You can participate in the comments here or join us in person on January 24, at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, CA, at 10:30AM.
Gary was born in the former U.S.S.R. in Leningrad, in 1972. His family was Jewish, and they emigrated to the US in 1979.
Shteyngart has released several fiction books to awards and critical acclaim. All share a sense of sadness and humor, as well as delight in the ridiculous extremes of Russia and America. His first book, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, is about young Russian ex-patriates in Manhattan and Prague. Absurdistan tells of a 325 pound man named Mischa, who becomes embroiled in a civil war even though all he wants is to return to the Bronx. Super Sad True Love Story is a science fiction dystopian tale of the son of a Russian immigrant who falls in love with a young Korean-American. All of Shteyngart’s novels have autobiographical elements.
Shteyngart is married to Esther Wong, and they have one son. Of Little Failure, in a fascinating essay for Huffington Post, Shteyngart said,
It is no coincidence that I began Little Failure just as my wife and I first considered having a child. That sweet American boy — we named him Johnny to be sure — was born just before my book’s publication. In writing it, I wanted to remember the best of my parents, but also remind myself that my past did not have to be my son’s. Still, the truth is, my parents made me who I am. By the time I was 9, my father had already taught me the meaning of satire. And the Amy Chua–approved work ethic I inherited from my mother kept me typing away on my first novel (That would be The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, a blisteringly funny send-up of immigrant life in America, published in 2002.) even through the pot haze of college, when I could have been spending my time enjoying the rather frightening coed showers.
You can find out more about Gary, and see his Little Failure baby book, at http.garyshteyngart.com.