Yelena Akhtiorskaya transformed her own family’s immigrant experience into her ambitious debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase. Akhtiorskaya immigrated to the US with her family in 1992 and settled in the expatriate community in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn otherwise known as “Little Odessa.” She graduated from Hunter College with a degree in literature in 2007 and earned her MFA from Columbia University in 2009. As a young writer, she was hesitant to draw on her own experiences for fear of writing stories that were too esoteric for a mainstream audience. It was only while working towards her MFA that she found the confidence to use Russian and immigrant characters in her fiction. The shift was a success—in 2010 she began publishing her first stories in n+1, The New Republic, and other journals. In 2014 she published her first novel, Panic in a Suitcase, which follows three generations of a family from Odessa to Brooklyn and back again in a complex modern tale of assimilation and individuality. That year she was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35.”
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Yelena Akhtiorskaya." (Viewed on January 21, 2020) <https://qa.jwa.org/people/akhtiorskaya-yelena>.