The Writer’s Center welcomes Michelle Brafman (Swimming with Ghosts) and Mary Kay Zuravleff (American Ending) for a reading and discussion to celebrate their new novels. Moderated by Kerry L. Malawista. Book signing to follow.
Free and open to the public, limited space, registration required below.
Michelle Brafman is the author of Washing the Dead, Bertrand Court: Stories, and Swimming with Ghosts. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Oprah Daily, Slate, LitHub, Tablet, The Forward, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing in the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program. Michelle began her literary journey by taking classes at The Writer’s Center. Learn more at michellebrafman.com.
Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of The Frequency of Souls, winner of the American Academy’s Rosenthal Award; The Bowl Is Already Broken, which the New York Times called, “a tart, affectionate satire of the museum world’s bickering and scheming”; and Man Alive!, a Washington Post Notable Book. Her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, Washingtonian, Atlantic, and LA Times Book Review, and she has received multiple DC Artist Fellowships, including for 2023. American Ending was inspired by her grandparents, immigrants of the Old Believer Russian Orthodox faith who mined coal in Appalachia.
Kerry L. Malawista is a writer and psychoanalyst in Potomac, MD. She is co-chair of New Directions in Writing, Associate Editor, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic, and founder of the recent project The Things They Carry – offering virtual writing workshops for healthcare and frontline workers. Her essays have appeared nationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, Zone 3, Washingtonian Magazine, The Huffington Post, Bethesda Magazine, Arlington Magazine, The Account Magazine, and Delmarva Review, which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is the co-author of Wearing my Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories (2011), The Therapist in Mourning: From the Faraway Nearby (2013), When the Garden Isn’t Eden (2022), all published by Columbia University Press, and Who’s Behind the Couch (2017) published by Routledge Press, and a novel, Meet the Moon (2022) with Regal House publishing.
About the Books
American Ending: A woman growing up in a family of Russian immigrants in the 1910s seeks a thoroughly American life.Yelena is the first American born to her Old Believer Russian Orthodox parents, who are building a life in a Pennsylvania Appalachian town. This town, in the first decades of the 20th century, is filled with Russian transplants and a new church with a dome. Here, boys quit grade school for the coal mines and girls are married off at fourteen. The young pair up, give birth to more babies than they can feed, and make shaky starts in their new world. However, Yelena craves a different path. Will she find her happy American ending or will a dreaded Russian ending be her fate?
In this immersive novel, Zuravleff weaves Russian fairy tales and fables into a family saga within the storied American landscape. The challenges facing immigrants–and the fragility of citizenship–are just as unsettling and surprising today as they were 100 years ago. American Ending is a poignant reminder that everything that is happening in America has already happened.
Swimming with Ghosts: It’s June 2012 at the magical and slightly cultish River Run swim club when a perfect storm brews between team moms and best friends, Gillian Cloud and Kristy Weinstein. The ghost of family addiction has turned up, looming over their carefully planned pasta parties, tie-dye nights, and pep rallies, forcing them to face their unresolved childhood trauma. Gillian responds by trying to control everyone around her, and Kristy relapses into her dangerous addiction to love. Real sparks fly the night the derecho—a freak land hurricane—sweeps through Northern Virginia, knocking out power for days. The storm sets fire to a tinder box of secrets, leaving Gillian and Kristy alone in the hot dark, their only company their shame.
In the vein of Little Fires Everywhere, the characters in Swimming with Ghosts discover that sometimes ashes make the best fertilizer for planting new fields and that they have the power to dodge the history they fear they are doomed to repeat. At times satirical, this book club novel captures the ethos and the ruin of any children’s competitive sport or activity where parents work out their demons and in turn lose their way.