Join us at Orca Books for a celebration of the paperback release of Mother Winter! Sophia Shalmiyev, Portland-based feminist writer and painter, will be reading from her book Mother Winter, and Olga Mikolaivna will be reading from her poetry. Q+A and a signing to follow the reading. This event is co-hosted by Desuetude Gallery and Orca Books.


From Laurels Award Fellowship recipient Sophia Shalmiyev comes the exquisite MOTHER WINTER (Simon & Schuster; February 11, 2020), a haunting and deeply personal story of fleeing the Soviet Union, where Shalmiyev was forced to abandon her mother, and her subsequent years of searching for surrogate mothers—whether in books, art, lovers, or other lost souls. MOTHER WINTER is the story of Sophia’s emotional journeys as an immigrant, an artist, and a motherless woman now raising children of her own. Born to a Russian mother and an Azerbaijani father, Shalmiyev grew up in the stark oppressiveness of 1980s Leningrad. When her father packed up for a new life in America, he took Sophia with him but left behind her estranged and alcoholic mother, Elena. At age eleven, Shalmiyev found herself on a plane headed west, motherless and terrified of the new world unfolding before her. The book depicts in urgent vignettes Sophia’s subsequent years of travel, searching, and forging meaningful connections. She describes her tumultuous childhood in the USSR; her experiences as a refugee; the life she built for herself in the Pacific Northwest; and her cathartic journey back to Russia as an adult to search for the mother she never knew. MOTHER WINTER is a searing meditation on motherhood, feminism, displacement, gender politics, and the pursuit of wholeness after shattering loss. And ultimately, it is an aching observation of the human heart across time and culture. 

MOTHER WINTER "A rich tapestry of autobiography and meditations on feminism, motherhood, art, and culture, this book is as intellectually satisfying as it is artistically profound. A sharply intelligent, lyrically provocative memoir." —Kirkus Reviews, ★ Starred Review

“Mother is a circle—a complete and perfect hole. From that void, the lyrical prose of Sophia Shalmiyev’s memoir, MOTHER WINTER, splits open like layer after layer of an ornate matryoshka. With a mesmeric voice and scathing vulnerability, Shalmiyev peels her past down to its hollow core: the vacancy left by her absent mother." —The Paris Review

“MOTHER WINTER is the wrenching story of her exile and grief, but it’s also a chronicle of awakening—to art, sex, feminism, and the rich complexities of becoming a mother herself. Like a punk rock Marguerite Duras, Shalmiyev has reinvented the language of longing. I love this gorgeous, gutting, unforgettable book." —Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks "

"MOTHER WINTER, Sophia Shalmiyev’s catastrophically bright, wavering motion of a memoir, forged through sticky clouds of pain, is vividly awesome and truly great" —Eileen Myles, author of Evolution

“Shalmiyev stubbornly, brilliantly pursues loss in this psycho-geography of immigration, grief displacement, and damage… Like the great modernist writers, Shalmiyev writes from, not about, trauma but at a pitch that’s witty, dry, sad, and laconic.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

“With sparse, poetic language Shalmiyev builds a personal history that is fractured and raw; a brilliant, lovely ache.” —Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir

“MOTHER WINTER slices through the conventions of narrative with the most delicate blade, ribboning what you think you know about memoir, homecoming, what it means to live in a female body, to live as a motherless mother, to be mothered by art and the arms of all that is strong enough to hold you. This book hypnotized me with its beauty and brutality. I feasted on Shalmiyev's sentences and they will stay with me for a long, long time.” —Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me



Sophia Shalmiyev emigrated from Leningrad to America in 1990. She is a feminist writer and painter living in Portland with her two children. Shalmiyev’s work has appeared in Literary Hub, Guernica, Electric Lit, Vela, Portland Review and other publications. Mother Winter, is out in paperback February 2020. Visit her website at for more.



Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Olga works within the mediums of photography, text, and installation. Her focus is on memory, home, (dis)place, language, inheritance/loss and the disruptive. She has been focusing on translating the Russian Futurists for the past two years. 

Event date: 
Saturday, March 14, 2020 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
509 E 4th Ave
Olympia, WA 98501
Mother Winter: A Memoir Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781501193088
Published: Simon & Schuster - February 12th, 2019

Event Terms: