The story of where we come from is such an important aspect of our personal sense of self, the forefront of many conversations about national identity, community, and belonging. In a country like the United States, where so many of us are or are descended from immigrants, the answer to this question of heritage can be a complicated one that takes us back generations. And, with proliferation of home genealogy tests like AncestryDNA and 23andMe, people are learning more about their family histories than was ever thought possible. But what happens when the questions we have about our identities and parentage can’t be answered by a simple test?
For writer Sophia Shalmiyev
, the question was never “who is my mother,” but rather, “where has she gone?” Mother Winter: A Memoir
(Simon & Schuster, 2019) traces Shalmiyev’s journey from early childhood in Leningrad, Russia to parenthood in Portland, Oregon as she comes to terms with the ambiguous loss of the most important relationship in her life. Finding inspiration in great feminist thinkers like Audre Lorde, Rita Ackermann, Sappho, Anaïs Nin, and so many others, Shalmiyev masterfully weaves philosophy, literature, and art history with personal memory to craft a reading experience unlike any other.
Zoë Bossiere is a doctoral student at Ohio University, where she studies nonfiction and teaches creative writing classes. She is also the managing editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction
. For more NBn interviews, follow her on Twitter @zoebossiere or visit her online at zoebossiere.com.