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Thursday, September 12 • 1:00pm - 2:15pm
The Landscape of Family

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Three authors with recent memoirs read from recent works and discuss the process of writing about family.

Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

Russian sentences begin backward, Sophia Shalmiyev tells us on the first page of her striking, lyrical memoir, Mother Winter. To understand the end of her story we must go back to her beginning.

Born to a Russian mother and an Azerbaijani father, Shalmiyev was raised in the stark oppressiveness of 1980s Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). An imbalance of power and the prevalence of antisemitism in her homeland led her father to steal Shalmiyev away, emigrating to America, abandoning her estranged mother, Elena. At age eleven, Shalmiyev found herself on a plane headed west, motherless and terrified of the new world unfolding before her.

Now a mother herself, in Mother Winter Shalmiyev depicts in urgent vignettes her emotional journeys as an immigrant, an artist, and a woman raised without her mother. She tells of her early days in St. Petersburg, a land unkind to women, wayward or otherwise; her tumultuous pit-stop in Italy as a refugee on her way to America; the life she built for herself in the Pacific Northwest, raising two children of her own; and ultimately, her cathartic voyage back to Russia as an adult, where she searched endlessly for the alcoholic mother she never knew. Braided into her physical journey is a metaphorical exploration of the many surrogate mothers Shalmiyev sought out in place of her own—whether in books, art, lovers, or other lost souls banded together by their misfortunes.

Mother Winter is the story of Shalmiyev’s years of travel, searching, and forging meaningful connection with the worlds she occupies—the result is a searing observation of the human heart and psyche’s many shades across time and culture. As critically acclaimed author Michelle Tea says, “with sparse, poetic language Shalmiyev builds a personal history that is fractured and raw; a brilliant, lovely ache.”

The Deer Camp by Dean Kuipers

Some families have to dig hard to find the love that holds them together. Some have to grow it out of the ground.

Bruce Kuipers was good at hunting, fishing, and working, but not at much else that makes a real father or husband. Conflicted, angry, and a serial cheater, he destroyed his relationship with his wife, Nancy, and alienated his three sons-journalist Dean, woodsman Brett, and troubled yet brilliant fisherman Joe. He distrusted people and clung to rural America as a place to hide.

So when Bruce purchased a 100-acre hunting property as a way to reconnect with his sons, they resisted. The land was the perfect bait, but none of them knew how to be together as a family. Conflicts arose over whether the land-an old farm that had been degraded and reduced to a few stands of pine and blowing sand-should be left alone or be actively restored. After a decade-long impasse, Bruce acquiesced, and his sons proceeded with their restoration plan. What happened next was a miracle of nature.

Dean Kuipers weaves a beautiful and surprising story about the restorative power of land and of his own family, which so desperately needed healing. Heartwarming and profound, The Deer Camp is the perfect story of fathers, sons, and the beauty and magic of the natural world.

The Eclipse I Call Father by David Axelrod

In The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence, David Axelrod recalls a balmy night in May 1970 when he vowed to allow no one and nothing he loves to pass from this life without praise, even if it meant praising the most bewildering losses. In each of these fourteen essays Axelrod delivers on that vow as he ranges across topics as diverse as marriage, Japanese poetry, Craftsman design, Old English riddles, racism, extinction, fatherhood, mountaineering, predatory mega-fauna, street fighting, trains, the Great Depression, and the effects of climate change—accretions of absence that haunt the writer and will likewise haunt readers.
The essays in this collection grew from a ten-year period when the author found himself periodically living and working abroad, wondering why foreign landscapes haunted him more than the familiar landscapes of the inland Pacific Northwest he called home. Each place had a long history of habitation, but at home he was blind, unable to see past the surfaces of things. Axelrod examines many aspects of that phenomenon in these pages, framing surface realities and imagining the scale and scope of that surface, but also trying to sense what is absent or changed, and how, despite its absence, the unseen accretes to ever-greater densities and persists as something uncanny.
Curious, alert, and keenly observant, these essays probe the boundaries between what is here and what is gone, what is present and what is past, in elegant prose. Readers familiar with Axelrod’s poetry will find a new facet of his lyrical gifts, while those encountering his work for the first time will be richly rewarded by the discovery of this Northwest literary talent.

Speakers
avatar for Sophia Shalmiyev

Sophia Shalmiyev

Sophia Shalmiyev emigrated from Leningrad to America in 1990. She is a feminist writer and painter living in Portland with her two children. Shalmiyev’s work has appeared in Literary Hub, Guernica, Electric Lit, Vela, Portland Review and other publications. Mother Winter (Simon... Read More →
avatar for Dean Kuipers

Dean Kuipers

Dean Kuipers is a former environmental editor and writer for the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of Burning Rainbow Farm (winner of the Michigan Notable Book Award) and Operation Bite Back. His work has been published in The Atlantic, Outside Magazine, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal... Read More →
avatar for David Axelrod

David Axelrod

Basalt
David Axelrod is the editor of basalt: a journal of fine and literary arts, and Sensational Nightingales: The Collected Poetry of Walter Pavlich, published by Lynx House Press. His new collection of poems, The Open Hand, appeared from Lost Horse Press in the autumn of 2017. His second... Read More →


Thursday September 12, 2019 1:00pm - 2:15pm
Missoula Art Museum 335 N Pattee St, Missoula, MT 59802, USA

Attendees (12)