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Author Irina Reyn
Author Irina Reyn
at Spertus Institute
Sunday, December 11, 2016 - 4:00 pm
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, we heard award-winning author
Irina Reyn in one of just two area appearances.
She appeared as part of the One Book | One Community, in which a single book is selected as the focus for Jewish Book Month activities across the Chicago region. The 2016 selection was Reyn's new book, The Imperial Wife.
As in previous years, the One Book initiative is spearheaded by Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
For this special event, Irina Reyn’s presentation was preceded by Russian tea and a performance of Russian music by pianist Yana Reznik. Reznik has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, the Tanglewood Festival (where she worked with the Mark Morris Dance Company), Yale School of Music's Summer Chamber Music Festival, and the International Academy of Music in Russia. She is known for creating innovative programs that bring classical music out of traditional venues to reach wider audiences.
The Imperial Wife, which was released earlier this year, is the second novel by Irina Reyn. Called "mesmerizing" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and "playful and profound" by Booklist, it intertwines the stories of two ambitious immigrants. One is a rising Jewish/Russian art specialist at an international auction house in present day New York. The other is the future Catherine the Great as she maneuvers through the 18th-century Russian court. It is notable and relevant that both are capable women grappling with positions of power, a topic that hasn’t lost its relevancy in the more than three centuries since Catherine lived.
This fast-paced book unpacks a trove of topics that will resonate with readers: the impact of success on marriage, the privileges and obligations of great wealth, and the advantages and disadvantages of being outside the mainstream in terms of faith, gender, nationality, identity, community, and career.
Reyn’s first novel, What Happened to Anna K., won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers. Her work has appeared in publications from Town & Country to Jezebel. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Like Tanya, one of the characters in The Imperial Wife, she immigrated to the United States from Moscow when she was seven years old. She has been writing about the experience — in one way or another — ever since.
Irina Reyn's photo courtesy of Aslan Habib Chalom.