Books·Canadian

Immigrant City

Immigrant City is a short story collection by David Bezmozgis.

David Bezmozgis

In the title story, a father and his young daughter stumble into a bizarre version of his immigrant childhood. A mysterious tech conference brings a writer to Montreal where he discovers new designs on the past in How it Used to Be. A grandfather's Yiddish letters expose a love affair and a wartime secret in Little Rooster. In Roman's Song, Roman's desire to help a new immigrant brings him into contact with a sordid underworld. At his father's request, Victor returns to Riga, the city of his birth, and has his loyalties tested by the man he might have been in A New Gravestone for an Old Grave. And, in the noir-inspired The Russian Riviera, Kostya leaves Russia to pursue a boxing career only to find himself working as a doorman in a garish nightclub in the Toronto suburbs.

In these deeply-felt, slyly humorous stories, David Bezmozgis pleads no special causes but presents immigrant characters with all their contradictions and complexities, their earnest and divided hearts. (From HarperCollins Canada)

Immigrant City is on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

From the book

I have three daughters. One is a baby. One is seven and prefers to stay home. One is four and wants to come with me wherever I go, even to the drugstore and the bank. If I don't take her, she cries.

Recently, backing out of a tight parking spot, I damaged the front passenger-side door of our car. I heard the sound of metal against concrete, the sound of self-recrimination, dolour and incalculable expense.

In the aftermath I called my wife, who was born in America and raised in mindless California abundance. For her family, scratching cars and misplacing wallets was like a hobby. I, on the other hand, had been an immigrant child, with all the heartache and superiority that conferred. We ate spotted fruit. I told my wife what I had done; her response was less than sympathetic.


From Immigrant City in Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis ©2019. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Why David Bezmozgis wrote Immigrant City

"Some of the stories in this collection go back at least a decade, maybe a little bit more, and some are very new. Through my life changes, the stories change a little bit. Natasha and Other Stories was written at the time before I had children and before I was married. Immigrant City was written when I was a husband and father and after a generation of people — my grandparents' generation and, to some extent, my parents' generation — had died. All of the sudden, you feel differently about your place in the world.

It's also about trying to understand what my connection is to my immigrant roots as somebody who's spent 40 years in Canada.- David Bezmozgis

"The world has changed over the last 10 or 15 years and I think that's reflected in the stories. My position in the world has changed, even as just somebody living in Toronto. The life I lead, and even my present social position is different now and different from the one that my family had when we first came to Canada. It's also about trying to understand what my connection is to my immigrant roots as somebody who's spent 40 years in Canada.

"Some of the stories engage with the immigrant experience more overtly than others. Part of it is trying to write about the world as I see and experience it. Some of the subject matter is simple domestic material: raising children, being a husband, being in a marriage. But some themes do address the idea of 'being the immigrant' a bit more head on. The title story, Immigrant City, has a main immigrant character who is aware that — all of the sudden — the way migrants and refugees are perceived throughout the world has changed." 

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with David Bezmozgis

The author is in studio talking about his new book, immigration, and a man with his daughter carrying a car door through Bathurst station. 8:47

Other books by David Bezmozgis

 

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