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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.

Yana ResnickFor 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 WifeThe 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.

Book Discussions

Discussions are led by Rachel Kamin, director of the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El and the Spertus One Book I One Community Book Discussion Facilitator. All are open to the public. See reservation and ticket information below.

Tuesday, November 1, 10:30 am-1:00 pm
Hadassah Chicago-North Shore
Joseph & Mae Gray Hadassah House
60 Revere Drive, Suite 800, Northbrook

Thursday, November 3, 7:00 pm-8:30 pm
McHenry County Jewish Congregation
8617 Ridgefield Road, Crystal Lake

Thursday, November 10, 7:00 pm-8:30 pm
Congregation Or Shalom
21 W. Hawthorn Parkway, Vernon Hills

Wednesday, November 16,
10:30 am-11:30 am
Zahava Devora Hadassah South Suburbs
at B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom
1424 183rd Street, Homewood

Tuesday, November 29, 7:30 pm
Congregation Etz Chaim
1710 S. Highland Avenue, Lombard

Saturday, December 10, 12:30 pm
North Suburban Synagogue Beth El
1175 Sheridan Road, Highland Park

Thursday, January 19, 1:30 pm
Temple Chai
1670 Checker Road, Long Grove
Free | RSVP to Shelly at 


Irina Reyn's author appearances are part of the Solomon Goldman Program Series, generously endowed by the late Rose and Sidney Shure.

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JUF News is the media sponsor
of One Book | One Community.

JUF Russian Jewish Division

Russian Tea Time