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Sophia Shalmiyev with Shanthi Sekaran, Melissa Stein, and Matthew Zapruder / Mother Winter: A Memoir

March 13, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0

The Bindery hosts Sophia Shalmiyev for her debut book Mother Winter: A Memoir. Joining her for readings and conversation are Shanthi Sekaran (Lucky Boy), Melissa Stein (Terrible Blooms), and Matthew Zapruder (Sun Bear). Please join us!


Russian sentences begin backward, Shalmiyev tells us on the first page of her striking, lyrical memoir. 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.”



“Vividly awesome and truly great.” – Eileen Myles


“I love this gorgeous, gutting, unforgettable book.” – Leni Zumas


“A rich tapestry of autobiography and meditations on feminism, motherhood, art, and culture, this book is as intellectually satisfying as it is artistically profound. A sharply intelligent, lyrically provocative memoir.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)



Sophia Shalmiyev emigrated from Leningrad to NYC in 1990. An MFA graduate of Portland State University, she was the nonfiction editor for The Portland Review and is a recipient of the Laurels Scholarship and numerous Kellogg’s Fellowship awards. She has a second master’s degree in creative arts therapy from The School of Visual Arts, previously counseling survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Her work has appeared in Vela MagazineEntropyElectric LitThe Seattle Review of BooksRavishly, and The Literary Review, among others; all with a feminist lens. She lives in Portland with her two children. Mother Winter is her first book.


Shanthi Sekaran is a writer and educator from Berkeley, California. Her recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an IndieNext Great Read and an NPR Best Book of 2017. It won the Housatonic Book Award and was a finalist for Stanford University’s Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her essays and stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Salon.com, and the LA Review of Books. She’s a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, an AWP mentor, and teaches writing at Mills College.


Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collections Terrible Blooms (Copper Canyon Press) and Rough Honey, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She’s received awards and fellowships from the NEA, Pushcart Prize, Bread Loaf, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She lives in San Francisco.




Matthew Zapruder’s most recent book is Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017). His fifth collection of poetry, Father’s Day, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in fall 2019. He is Associate Professor in the MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California, and editor at large at Wave Books.




Please note: This event will be at The Bindery, 1727 Haight.


This is an all ages event. The bar opens at 7, event begins at 7:30pm.


As with all of our events, seating is limited and may be reserved by purchasing a book in advance. To reserve a seat, order with the link below and be sure to include your request in the comments field.


If you cannot attend the event but would like to requeset a signed copy of Mother Winter, and/or any of the authors’ books, order below and put your request in the comments field.


RSVP appreciated but not required.


The Booksmith
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The Bindery
1727 Haight St
San Francisco , 94117 United States
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