Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Immigrant Angst


One of the most uncomfortable college experiences I had was when once a grad student teaching my Slavic Studies class asked the class of your run of the mill Ohio State students what came to mind when they heard "Eastern Europe."

What sprang from the tips of the Midwestern tongues didn't exactly scar me for life but reaffirmed the fact that the place that housed my ancestors for hundreds of years is -in one way or another- viewed as a shithole by many (if not most) in my adopted country.

Nothing about soulfulness or good literature or mystical spirituality came up.

The stereotypical litany I heard included, "prostitution, mafia, dictatorship" and -to add insult to injury- "bad food."

On the upside, nobody actually brought up an STD.

The grad student nodded and we went on to something else.

He is probably teaching and African-American studies now where I hope he doesn't attempt a similar exercise.

I was going to write a long post about this Russian expat angst but I don't feel like it... let me boil it down for you: being an immigrant can be alienating and shitty.

If could get a dollar for every bad impersonation of the Russian accent that I heard from acquaintances I would probably have 120$ by now. A HUNDRED AND TWENTY FUCKING DOLLARS!

That's like a week and a half of groceries.

Anyway, just this year I sent off a long email to a girl I am in love with and one of the many things that get in the way of that potential romance is my Russian proclivity to bare my soul constantly which doesn't go well with her way of communicating.

Fuck it, I don't know. It is what it is.

It's life.

One writer to whom I have turned for years for an echo of my Russian-immigrant alienation is Gary Shteyngart. A Jewish-Russian-American writer. The New York Times loves him. I love him. Life is alright when I read his books.

He has a million dollar condo in Manhattan and I have a cheap apartment in an Ohio suburb next to a Walgreen's.

Today his memoir comes out, "Little Failure."

It is minus 22 degrees Celsius outside, I have downloaded Shteyngart's work as an audiobook and will play Tetris on my computer as I listen and try to suppress my melancholy hope for a text from a girl in Seattle.

What can be more Russian-American than that?

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