"The glory of this book lies in Shrayer’s sinuous, neo-Proustian prose, beautifully fluid and perceptive with its luminous shocks of recognition, landscapes, descriptions and asides. It illuminates its quarries, circles and pounces upon them in sumptuous ease. Tales and teller mesmerize and delight."—The Providence Journal
"Now, after twenty successful years as an American, Shrayer reminisces about that difficult period with charm, insight, and unexpected humor. A lovely read."—Jewish Book World
"Waiting for America is one of those memoirs, like Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, that is more about feeling than narrative."—Off the Shelf/The Boston Globe
In 1987 a young Jewish man, the central figure in this captivating book, leaves Moscow for good with his parents. They celebrate their freedom in opulent Vienna and spend two months in Rome and the coastal resort of Ladispoli. While waiting in Europe for a U.S. refugee visa, the book’s twenty-year-old poet quenches his thirst for sexual and cultural discovery. Through his colorful Austrian and Italian misadventures, he experiences the shock, thrill, and anonymity of encountering Western democracies, running into European roadblocks while shedding Soviet social taboos. As he anticipates entering a new life in America, he movingly describes the baggage that exiles bring with them, from the inescapable family traps and ties to the sweet cargo of memory.
An emigration story, Waiting for America explores the rapid expansion of identity at the cusp of a new, American life. Told in a revelatory first-person narrative, Waiting for America is also a vibrant love story in which the romantic main character is torn between Russian and Western women. Filled with poignant humor and reinforced by hope and idealism, the author’s confessional voice carries the reader in the same way one is carried through literary memoirs like Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, or Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. Babel, Sebald, and Singer—all transcultural masters of identity writing—are the coordinates that help to locate Waiting for America on the greater map of literature.
Maxim D. Shrayer was born in 1967 in Moscow and immigrated to the United States in 1987. Among his books are The World of Nabokov’s Stories and Russian Poet/Soviet Jew. A bilingual author and translator, Shrayer recently edited An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature. Shrayer is professor of Russian and English and chair of the Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages at Boston College. He is the recipient of a number of fellowships, including those from the NEH, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation. Shrayer lives in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, with his wife and two daughters.