Just read a lovely experimental essay about immigrant identity and longing. It’s a piece by Anna Prushinskaya up at The Millions. An excerpt:
I set alarms to call my grandmother. I don’t call her for weeks that add up to months, and when I finally call her, I tell her that I will call again next week. I don’t call her next week. I think about calling her each time that I say I will call her. When I call her, I can hear the background noise of the street. She says regular things like that she misses me. She asks for great-grandchildren.
I read something recently that described stealing as lack of faith. We steal when we don’t have faith that the things we need will come. When I don’t call, I think I am stealing time. I do not have faith that at the end of the conversation about the weather there is something that turns out to be love.
It’s a day of reading Russian stuff. So then I read some ruminations about Russian language from a piece up at Jewcy:
I love Russian. I love how the phrases resonate with innate lyricism; how the constants punctuate speech with that distinctly Slavic bite[…]But I especially love how speaking the language makes me feel – like an edgier, snarkier me, with a stockpile of one-liners and wit that rarely makes its way into my English-language conversations. For these reasons and more, I’ve incurred countless raised eyebrows from fellow Russian-speakers when answering that obligatory question – where are you from? Because I’m not from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Baku, Tashkent, or some variation thereof—I grew up right here, between Brooklyn and Jersey.
The author, Samantha Shokin, goes on to say:
My bilinguality was always the defining characteristic I shared about myself, and eventually kids started accusing me of sporting a foreign accent. I relished having a unique background that set me apart from the rabble, but hated the exclusion that came with it. In truth, my pseudo-immigrant pride was really a defense mechanism used to cope with a general feeling of “otherness” that I could never quite shake.
I resonate wit this a lot, though it was less a true bilingualism for me and more of a biculturalism, that I had knowledge of this other country, this other world, and place. I had a strange nostalgia growing up for a place I’d never been to, a country that no longer existed.
The author goes onto meet some newer Russian immigrants:
These friends were creative, exotic, and spoke Russian so beautifully that even expletives fizzled in my ears with charming effervescence. To them, I was a novelty; a bridge between cultures. I laughed at jokes I didn’t understand because I wanted so badly to. Soon I found myself wondering, would I be like them if I’d grown up there? If my parents had never left?
I ask myself these questions a lot. Who would I have been if I had been born in Moscow?