Support Ukrainian Writers
One way to support Ukraine is to buy the books of (risk-taking) Ukrainian writers. I've been immersing myself in the work of Ukrainian women writers and will dedicate the February and March blogposts to featuring those artists and their stories. My aim is to feature one new writer (and my favorite of their novels) every other week.
Please find your own Ukrainian writers to support, follow them, review their books at Goodreads, Bookbub, or wherever else you talk about books, and tell your friends and family about their books. Please, please, please let me know who I might be missing (on this list) or who I haven't discovered yet.
Oksana Zabuzhko grew up in Ukraine under Soviet occupation, and her work focuses on issues of national identity and gender. Her first novel, Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex (1996), left me wondering how I'd lived this long without reading Sabuzhko. Sadly, not many of her books have been translated into English, but you can find this book and her second, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2009) at your local independent bookstore. Google 'Indie bookstores near me,' and ask them to special order either of these books. If you live in the outer-Hebrides, or some other such place a million miles from an independent bookstore, then click here for an alternative socially-conscious book-buying experience.
Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex is Zabuzhko's semi-autobiographical novel, and it sent shock waves around Eastern Europe for its open expression of dissatisfaction with daily life and gendered experience. It's an out-and-out attack on an oppressive culture that controls women both socially (through totalitarianism) and sexually (i.e., through patriarchy).
I admire Fieldwork not just for its confrontation of hegemonic gender norms and attack
on totalitarianism, but also for its style, which is itself a push-back. If, like me, you're not a literary theorist, don't be put off or intimidated by the Ecriture Feminine writing style, rather, see it as part of Zabuzhko's protest against life in Ukraine as a female living with occupation. Ectirure Feminine, first introduced by Helen Cixous, is a uniquely feminine writing style, which is the result of the suppression of the female voice and being forced to write in a "borrowed language;" the language of men.
Zabuzhko's second novel, Museum of Abandoned Secrets, is especially timely, as it deals with Ukraine's resistance to (Soviet) colonialism in the 20th century. It's interesting, and deeply sad, to position this story (which unpacks the myth of friendly nations that Putin tried to perpetuate in the early 2000's) against the current war.
Spread the word about Oksana Zabushko!
Stay tuned to this blog for more reviews of books from risk-taking, brave Ukrainian writers.