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100,000 books, Brighton Beach, Nika, Sergei, Tatania’s Borsch, 1,000,000 Russians and Me

Thanks to the amazing life of Russian teenage fighter ace, Lilia Litvyak, I’ve been invited to speak in a lot of interesting places from the United Nations to the Russian Cultural Centre and Ukrainian Embassy in Washington D.C. to the Aviara Book Club in Southern California.

So it’s only logical, we should launch the new fourth edition of Call Sign, White Lily at the world’s largest Russian book store outside of Russia, the St. Petersburg Book Store in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the home to over 1 million Russian Americans, and about 100,000 books, absolutely gigantic.


Of course, there was a catch! Everybody in attendance only spoke and understood Russian. So that led to a Russian version of the poster for the store and their website, a multi-media presentation that only used Russian headings, and the need for the delightful simultaneous translator, Nika Dyomina from New Jersey. We even had a visit from Russian TV host, Sergei Yantrjembsky.


After the talk, and book signing, we did Brighton Beach, a seaside oasis in the heart of New York City. Except for Coney Island and the colorful apartment buildings, we could have been anywhere. Almost…


We also stopped for lunch at Tatiana’s, a boardwalk café, where they also only spoke Russian; met Lana (Yelana) and her son Boris on the beach, and wandered the neighborhood looking at the latest Russian women’s fashions and colorful leather bags from China.


At the end of the trip I once again concluded three things: Russians are uniquely generous, proud of the heritage; curiously skeptical that an American with no Russian heritage would take the time to reach out with my books; and completely mystified why we know so little about them, and they know so much more about us.

I don’t profess to have any answers to all of that. I can only tell you I recommend the Beef Borscht at Tatiana’s, and would pass on the leather bags. There are better knockoffs on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.

DATE: Jun.14.2013 | CATEGORY: Archived