The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, 2014

Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Panic in a Suitcase

(Riverhead, July 2014)

Selected by Aleksandar Hemon, 2008 National Book Award Finalist for The Lazarus Project

Yelena AkhtiorskayaYelena Akhtiorskaya was born in Odessa in 1985 and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. She is the recipient of a Posen Fellowship in Fiction, and her writing has appeared in n+1, The New RepublicTriple Canopy, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.'

About Panic in a Suitcase:

In this account of two decades in the life of an immigrant household, the fall of communism and the rise of globalization are artfully reflected in the experience of a single family. Ironies, subtle and glaring, are revealed: the Nasmertovs left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with a huge sense of finality, only to find that the divide between the old world and the new is not nearly as clear-cut as they thought. The dissolution of the Soviet Union makes returning just a matter of a plane ticket, and the Russian-owned shops in their adopted neighborhood stock even the most obscure comforts of home. Pursuing the American Dream once meant giving up everything, but does the dream still work if the past is always within reach?


Aleksandar HemonAleksandar Hemon is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, as well as The Question of BrunoNowhere ManLove and Obstacles and The Book of My Lives. Born in Sarajevo, Hemon visited Chicago in 1992, intending to stay for a matter of months. While he was visiting, Sarajevo came under siege, and he was unable to return home.

Aleksandar Hemon has worked as a waiter, canvasser, bookseller, bike messenger, as well as a supervisor at a literacy center, a writer for Radio-Sarajevo Youth Program and a teacher of English as a second language. Hemon wrote his first story in English in 1995. His work has been featured in The New Yorker, Esquire, Granta, The New York Times, Playboy, McSweeney’s, TriQuarterly, The Baffler, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, Ploughshares and The Paris Review, among others. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the PEN/ W.G. Sebald Award, and, most recently, a 2012 USA Fellowship. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters.