Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

Mother Winter

An arresting memoir equal parts refugee-coming-of-age story, feminist manifesto, and meditation on motherhood, displacement, gender politics, and art that follows award-winning writer Sophia Shalmiyev’s flight from the Soviet Union, where she was forced to abandon her estranged mother, and her subsequent quest to find her.Born to a Russian mother and an Azerbaijani father, Shalmiyev was raised in the stark oppressiveness of 1980s Leningrad (now...

Details Mother Winter

TitleMother Winter
Release DateFeb 12th, 2019
PublisherSimon Schuster
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Cultural, Russia

Reviews Mother Winter

  • Rachel
    Of the three memoirs I read this month, Mother Winter was far and away the one that hit me the hardest, which may surprise you as I've talked before about my disinterest in 'motherhood books' (only as a matter of personal taste). But I suppose Mother Winter is less of a mother book than it is a daughter book, centered on the irreconcilable grief that Sophia Shalmiyev incurred by growing up motherless. This is a sharp, focused, achingly tender and...
  • Hannah
    By all accounts, I should have loved this book as it ticks all my boxes; I generally enjoy memoirs written by women and those that focus a mother-daughter relationship particularly, I love memoirs that are told mostly unchronologically and academically, hell, I adored the first sentences (“Russian sentences begin backwards. When I learned English well enough to love it, I realized my inner tongue was running in the wrong direction.”) but some...
  • Lou
    Mother Winter is award-winning writer Sophia Shalmiyev's autobiographical account of her challenging childhood and her need to find somewhere she belonged. The description of leaving Russia with her father to fly to the US in search of a better life reminded me very much of Maria Sharapova's memoir as the situation where her mother stayed behind in Russia with Shalmiyev having to grow up without her is identical to what happened in Sharapova's ea...
  • Meike
    After her alcoholic mother lost custody of ten-year-old Sophia Shalmiyev, her father emigrated with her from Leningrad to the United States - as they left the USSR in 1989, Shalmiyev not only lost her biological mother, but her home country collapsed and vanished behind her. In her memoir, which is also the author's literary debut, we learn about Shalmiyev's childhood and adolescence which were overshadowed by her mother's illness and excess as w...
  • Rene Denfeld
    I dashed to get this memoir after reading an amazing article about it by Chelsea Bieker in Electric Literature. Typical to me, I gulped it down in a few days (is there a surefire way to make yourself read slower? I read too fast). This is an amazing memoir. It's a seamless tapestry of vignettes about the missing mother—the missing, aching core—of Shalmiyev's life. Mother love is both romanticized and reputed in our culture: romanticized in bo...
    DNF @ 17%
  • Donna Davis
    I'm crying uncle. I cannot do this. I read the first quarter of the book, which is wall-to-wall rage and violence, much of it sexual, and explicitly so. There's a tremendous amount of potential here, because Shalmiyev is a true word smith. But when a writer mines her pain and rage to create a narrative, there still needs to be pacing, and there still needs to be an arc. This memoir, which I picked up again at the 80% mark but still didn't finish,...
  • Kevin
    Sophia Shalmiyev starts her story pining for her absent Russian mother and then pivots through other parts of her unmoored life with the spark of a poet and the fire of an immigrant riot grrrl. This isn't the tightest memoir in the world but screw tidiness; when Shalmiyev deliberately drives her story off the rails it's in the most sensational and entertaining style. The parts about her own experiences as a mother and her early years in the north...
  • Ygraine
    mother winter is something adjacent to but not entirely like a memoir; it feels more like a sort of curation of tapes, recorded pieces of thought cut out of the fabric of a life and grafted together, played into a slight graininess and, at times, an almost incomprehensibility, homophonous sounds tripping the tongue and the mind. reading it is a dizzying, an unsettling experience - shalmiyev is writing about the vast unanswerability of being an ex...
  • Nicole Swinson
    This is Sophia’s debut book; a memoir of her life and I feel memoirs cannot be given ratings like a fictional book, because this is her story, she lived it and she is gifting it to us and I am grateful she did. Release Date February 2019Sophia elegantly and lyrically takes us on the journey of her life, what it was like for her to live without her mother. A mother she was taken from; because her mother was an alcoholic. A father she was forced ...
  • Janelle • She Reads with Cats
  • Mor Keshet
    I spent the day yesterday reading Mother Winter- I was captivated. The structure and pace that Shalmiyev conjures brought me into that traumatized, dissonant space that is the drumbeat of this book. Mother Winter has a singular rhythm, woven together in a dynamic, profoundly sad - and hopeful - fabric. I read sentences again and again - they will stay with me for years to come. A stunning, deeply thoughtful and inspiring debut.
  • Heather Brown
    So excited to have landed a galley of Mother Winter! This book reads like a dream where you're constantly reaching for something or someone, with a cold, lyrical beauty I want to fall backward into like it's a moonlit snowdrift. I'm lost and found each time I open it.
  • Sara - thelookingglassreads
    What if the name of the town and country you were born in changed after you left? What if you lived in three different countries within a year right before you hit puberty? What if your native tongue had to twist to shout new sounds, trying to touch the top of your teeth to say the word teeth in front of a classroom of predictably cruel seventh-grade girls? What if the only word, the only name, the only place that remained constant was Ma? Mama, ...
  • Cameron
    I was instantly riveted by this book. I love the structure-- sparse, poetic, vignettes. I was especially impressed by the construction of the child-narrator in the book's first half--she was alive on the page, vulnerable, curious, hungry for love. For anyone interested in the plight of the refusnik's-- Jew's who left the Soviet Union as refugees in the late 80s-- this is especially compelling, but what resonated even deeper with this reader was t...
  • Diana
    Beautiful memoir woven from poetic fragments
  • Genevieve Hudson
    The sentences in this book are gorgeous and gutting. I'm so glad I read this book. It brought me closer to myself while bringing me closer to the wider world. It reminded me why I read.
  • Marissa Korbel
    One of the best books I read in 2018. Complicated, lyrical, funny, haunting. Shalmiyev smashes.
  • Mindy Sue
    Mother Winter is magic. I appreciate books that don't follow a standard format and I found Sophia's writing style engaging and beautiful. This book is a spell and a love letter and so much more. I happily received it's potent medicine and, as a motherless daughter, this book feels personally important to me. I feel very seen and held in the myriad ways that only other motherless daughters can provide. I am absolutely here for this book!! I'm deli...
  • Abby Kincer
    Follow me on Instagram @bookmarkedbya and see my full review at The piercingly personal memoir of Shalmiyev’s life and lifelong desire to know and understand her mother.•Sophia was born into poverty in Soviet-era Russia, and into a painfully difficult childhood. Her mother abused alcohol and was soon stripped of her parental custody. Her father was well-intentioned but neglectful, forcing her to be her...
  • Kate
    A Gutting, Poetic and Brilliant Memoir!•Memoirs like this affirm why Memoir is my favorite genre!The way Shalmiyev has constructed her life story is so alluring. How she grew up without a mother and the emptiness and longing that created to then becoming a mother herself, with reflections on her tramatic childhood and her journey of emigrating to America with her neglectful father.This is seriously one of the best memoirs I have ever read. It's...
  • Kathleen Gray
    It's always hard to review a memoir because you are commenting on someone's life. In this case, I think there's a terrific story here but the method of telling it was not, at least for me. It's unconventional, to be sure, to write a memoir comprising fragments of poetry and vignettes. Oh and feminist figures. It can also be challenging for the reader to follow. Shalmiyev has written thoughtfully about the loss of and search for her mother, who wa...
  • Jen
    This book ripped my heart out over and over again and pieced it back together haphazardly shoving the fragments back into my body. While I cannot relate to most of the authors life, the bits about being a mother without a mother hit home the hardest. Excuse me, I feel compelled to read every last book cited in the bibliography. I would also very much like to drink too much with the author and talk music and books and talk shit.
  • Janilyn Kocher
    I found the story of the author's childhood in Russia fascinating. The author was separated from her mother when she was quite young and despite a trip back to Russia in 2004, was not able to track her down. The writing is engaging, but the organization of the story is disjointed and rambling. The author throws in references at odd junctures, which is disconcerting. It's an interesting story, but the disjointed writing made it difficult to follow...
  • Diana
    A deeply lyrical and constantly surprising memoir. Like a kaleidoscope that always asks of you to shift perspective on recurring themes-- abandonment, social injustice, power, motherhood, sexuality, immigration, identity -- each shift bringing you into a new immersive experience. Raw, honest, and thought-provoking. I look forward to reading more books authored by Sophia Shalmiyev.
  • Shoshanna
    Very dense. Very Feminist. Lots of references. Sometimes hard to follow, but overall an interesting experience! Looks at issues of immigration, motherhood, feminism, punk / riot grrrl, Jewishness. Def worth checking out if you are interested in this presented in a more abstract narrative.
  • Kristen Tcherneshoff
    One of my absolute favorite books I’ve read in recent years. This memoir is a collection of lyrical essays, fragmented memories, self-reflective psychoanalyses, and critical commentary. I’m already looking forward to reading it again.