Ulinich, Anya 1973–
Ulinich, Anya 1973–
(Anna Sergeievna Ulinich)
Born November 10, 1973, in Moscow, Russia; immigrated to the United States at the age of 17; became naturalized citizen; married; children: two. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; University of California at Davis, M.F.A. Religion: Atheist.
Home— Brooklyn, NY. E-mail— [email protected]
Writer; worked as a painter.
Petropolis(novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Anya Ulinich was born in the Soviet Union (now Russia) in 1973, and came to the United States with her family when she was seventeen years old. She had studied art at an academy in Moscow, and upon coming to the United States, she continued her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of California, Davis. In 2000, however, she abandoned her painting ambitions, moved to Brooklyn, New York, and began to write.
Ulinich's first book,Petropolis, features the character of Sasha Goldberg. Her story has some parallels to Ulinich's own. Ulinich is Jewish and experienced prejudice because of it; Sasha is multiracial, with African features and hair, and sees herself as a complete outcast. Like Ulinich, Sasha also studies art in Moscow, but she is only able to do so because her mother weaves a web of elaborate lies about her in order to boost her chances of being accepted to the school.
Sasha's life is bleak. Abandoned by her father, she falls in love with a boy whose social standing is even lower than her own—he lives in a huge, abandoned sewer pipe on the outskirts of town. When Sasha becomes pregnant, her mother, Lubov, insists that she hide the pregnancy and then pass the child off as her sister. Lubov feels it will be best for Sasha to continue on with her life as though she does not have a daughter, and manages to get Sasha enrolled in art school in Moscow. Frustrated and saddened by the separation from her baby, Sasha is unable to focus on her studies. Instead, she signs up with a mail-order bride agency and so makes her way to the United States. At first she dutifully does what her dull fiancé expects of her: she takes classes in English as a second language and submits to his selfish and clumsy lovemaking. Finally she acts on the urging of one of her classmates and runs away, heading to Chicago because she thinks perhaps her father will be there.
In Chicago, she becomes the indentured servant of a wealthy Jewish-American family that collects Russian artifacts. Sasha eventually flees their home, too, and goes to New York, where she at last finds her father. He has buried all traces of his past life and married an American, with whom he has a son. Sasha's relationship with her father's new wife turns out to be pivotal. According to Lisa Teasley in her review for Ms. Online: "In the end, Ulinich ties a neat bow around Sash's serious coming-of-age problems, but bittersweetness lingers. Petropolis bursts with artful details of an immigrant's peripatetic youth and quest for home—the grappling for the strong woman inside of the lost girl."
Reviewing Petropolis for the Moscow Times Online, Irina Reyn noted that the book's success "relies on our empathy for Sasha, and what is remarkable about this heroine is how little Ulinich sentimentalizes her." Petropolis is "rich with black humor, acerbic wit and a charm entirely free from the preciousness that accompanies so many coming-of-age stories," Reyn continued. "Ulinich is best when she digs below the surface of satire to probe the pain, ambivalence and cynicism of the acculturation process."
Discussing the author's work in an article for Zeek, David Stromberg commented: "Ulinich appears to have equal interest and investment in what she has seen in her American life as in what she remembers of her Russian one, faithfully portraying both Russian and American behaviors, yet she is also aware of the misperceptions between the two cultures. Rather than trying to create a mishmash characters with goofy language, or to regurgitate clichés of Russian beauties and American soul-searchers, she works to redraw the separating coexisting cultural lines."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2006, Bill Ott, review of Petropolis, p. 23.
Hartford Courant, March 4, 2007, Carole Goldberg, review of Petropolis.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of Petropolis, p. 1197.
Library Journal, December 1, 2006, Sarah Conrad Weisman, review of Petropolis, p. 116.
Publishers Weekly, November 13, 2006, review of Petropolis, p. 33.
Anya Ulinich Home Page,http://www.anyaulinich.com (November 27, 2007).
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 27, 2007), Harvey Freedenberg, review of Petropolis.
Moscow Times,http://context.themoscowtimes.com/ (March 9, 2007), Irina Reyn, review of Petropolis.
Ms. Online,http://www.msmagazine.com/ (winter, 2007), Lisa Teasley, review of Petropolis.
Time Out New York,http://www.timeout.com/ (November 27, 2007), Dan Lopez, review of Petropolis.
Zeek,http://www.zeek.net/ (November 27, 2007), David Stromberg, "Russian as an American Language: A Conversation with Anya Ulinich.