Keith Gessen (George T. Delacorte Assistant Professor of Magazine Journalism) published “Another World,” an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir Raising Raffi (Penguin Random House, May 2022).
When my first son was born, I started speaking Russian to him. It was not a conscious decision—I just started and never stopped. My (American) wife, Emily, encouraged me, even though it must have seemed sometimes like there was a stranger in her home. But Russian had meant so much to my mother. Before she died, she had recorded herself reading, on a tape cassette, a small group of poems, by Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky. She didn’t tell us about it, and we only found the cassette a few months later, when cleaning up her stuff. Her voice came back to us, through those poems. The poems she’d chosen by Brodsky were largely about the loneliness of life in America, about how alienating it was, about how one could just disappear there.