Join us to celebrate two debut novels from two promising young voices in American fiction, The Study of Animal Languages by Lindsay Stern and Oksana, Behave! by Maria Kuznetsova.
A dazzlingly insightful and entertaining novel about the limitations of language, the fragility of love, and the ways we misunderstand each other and ourselves, Lindsey Stern's The Study of Animal Languages marks the debut of a brilliant new voice in fiction.
Ivan is a tightly wound philosophy professor whose reverence for logic and order governs not only his academic interests, but also his closest relationships. His wife, Prue, is quite the opposite: a pioneer in the emerging field of biolinguistics, she is bold and vibrant, full of life and feeling. Thus far, they have managed to weather their differences. But lately, an odd distance has settled in between them. Might it have something to do with the arrival of the college's dashing but insufferable new writer-in-residence, whose novel Prue always seems to be reading?
Into this delicate moment barrels Ivan's unstable father-in-law, Frank, in town to hear Prue deliver a lecture on birdsong that is set to cement her tenure application. But the talk doesn't go as planned, unleashing a series of crises that force Ivan to finally confront the problems in his marriage, and to begin to fight - at last - for what he holds dear.
In Maria Kuznetsova's irresistible debut, Oksana, Behave!, Oksana’s family begin their new American life in Florida after emigrating from Ukraine, her physicist father delivers pizza at night to make ends meet, her depressed mother sits home all day worrying, and her flamboyant grandmother relishes the attention she gets when she walks Oksana to school, not realizing that the street they’re walking down is known as Prostitute Street. Oksana just wants to have friends and lead a normal life—and though she constantly tries to do the right thing, she keeps getting herself in trouble. As she grows up, she continues to misbehave, from somewhat accidentally maiming the school bus bully, to stealing the much-coveted (and expensive-to-replace) key to New York City’s Gramercy Park, to falling in love with a married man. As her grandmother moves back to Ukraine, her father gets a job at Goldman Sachs, and her mother knits endless scarves, Oksana longs for a Russia that looms large in her imagination but is a country she never really knew.
When she visits her grandmother in Yalta and learns about Baba’s wartime past and her lost loves, Oksana begins to see just how much alike they are, and comes to a new understanding of how to embrace life and love without causing harm to the people dearest to her. But will Oksana ever quite learn to behave?
Lindsay Stern is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of a Watson Fellowship and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers magazine. She is currently pursuing a PhD in comparative literature at Yale University. The Study of Animal Languages is her first novel.
Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and moved to the United States as a child. She is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Oksana, Behave! is her first novel. Her fiction has appeared in the The Southern Review, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Mississippi Review, Kenyon Review Online, The Threepenny Review, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, Bennington Review, and other publications. She lives in Iowa City with her family.