Writing The Cosmopolitans

"I began this novel as a whole-cloth invention and then, like the characters, discovered that family and the past have ways of asserting themselves. Although the story’s specifics—from the garbled wedding toasts to the survival of Caldors into the 21st century—are made up, my own experience is intertwined with the Molochniks’.

In creating Lev the narrator, I thought of my great-grandfather, a loyal Soviet citizen who was repressed as a “rootless cosmopolitan” because he was Jewish. As I wrote I heard the voices of my immigrant family, who spin happy stories out of sad histories and create cautionary tales out of seeming triumphs, and who taught me not to take anything at face value. I realized, just like the Molochniks eventually do, that you can’t escape your family. Exasperating as this is, it can be a great comfort, too."

-- Nadia Kalman