SPU MFA fiction faculty member Gina Ochsner’s novel The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight was recently awarded the 2011 Grub Street National Book Prize in Fiction!
Head juror Michelle Hoover writes, “Gina Ochsner becomes our own Tatyana Tolstaya with The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, a novel at once melancholic and comic, dreamy and mired in the bowels of modern day Russia. Set in an apartment building with a common-use latrine, a mud-soaked courtyard, and a hoard of violent, philosophy-minded urchins, the dwellers wake from their impoverished lives when one particularly irritating resident dies in a fall from the roof. Never properly buried, Mircha returns to haunt the complex, stinking of his newfound ideas about life and death, while his wife Azade toils at the latrine, able to name her customer’s shifting dreams by the odors they leave behind. Young Tayna is an insatiable poet, her notebook full of airy wonder, while war veteran Yuri dreams of becoming a fish and wears a helmet against the ticking sounds in his head. Yuri’s widowed mother, Olga, toils at a conservative newspaper, translating tragedies into agreeable prose. But what to write when the city itself starts to turn to mud?: ‘City officials advise residents to avoid the out of doors at all costs…. If one should find him or herself mud-bound by no means should he or she thrash about.’ Only when a group of Americas arrive to tour the city’s All-Russia, All-Cosmopolitan Museum, stocked with forgeries and statues fashioned from gum and foam, does the delicate balance of their absurd lives, and the apartment itself, begin—quite agreeably—to sink. Refreshing in substance, gorgeous in style, and heart-rending in sensibility, Ochsner’s first novel is one of the most delightful I’ve read in years.”
Ready to read Russian Dreambook for yourself? Purchase your copy here.