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About the book
  • Published: 1 April 2010
  • ISBN: 9781741666793
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $34.99

Otherland

A Journey with My Daughter




Shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart prize for non fiction and the Community Relations Commission Award in NS W and the Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year.

Shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart prize for non fiction and the Community Relations Commission Award in NS W and the Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year.

I left too early, before tanks rolled into Moscow in 1991, and before Gorbachev was put under home arrest in a failed coup. I left before Russia and Ukraine became separate countries, before the KGB archives were opened, before the Russian version of Wheel of Fortune, before the word 'Gulag' appeared in textbooks. I left before Chechnya, before the mass renaming of cities and streets, before you could go into a shop and actually purchase the books of Brodsky, Pasternak and Nabokov. I left too early, I missed the whole point. I was not there when my generation was cornered by history.

Maria Tumarkin travels with her Australian-born teenage daughter, Billie, back to Russia and Ukraine to have her experience first-hand the seismic shifts of her family's native country. For Maria the trip back is no simple stroll down memory lane. Splintered and scattered across the world, her generation has ended up inhabiting vastly different realities.

Along with exploring the political and cultural fallout of a century of turmoil, Maria wanted to bring together the worlds of her mother and daughter - the different continents, histories and experiences they encompassed. Before they set off, Maria wistfully imagined her and Billie's hearts beating in unison as they travelled back to a past they could both understand, forging a nearly superhuman bond along the way. But, in Maria and Billie's case, the past was not simply another country, but one that no longer existed.

Otherland is the story of a six-week trip traversing three generations, three lifetimes and three profoundly different but profoundly interconnected stories of mothers and daughters.

  • Pub date: 1 April 2010
  • ISBN: 9781741666793
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $34.99

About the Author

Maria Tumarkin

Born in 1974 in the former Soviet Union in a Russian Jewish family, which in 1989 immigrated to Australia. Maria has published three books, Traumascapes, Courage and most recently Otherland. All have received multiple award shortlistings. She lives in Melbourne with her two children.


Praise for Otherland

“Otherland is a deeply considered work, delicately nuanced and finely detailed. Tumarkin's characters are brilliantly sardonic and often poignant, so that even minor and transient figures are vividly realised.”

Judges 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

“Tumarkin is a consummate storyteller, and her sharp observations about the new Russia are intricately woven with her portraits of her family and their relationships. A brilliant, absorbing book about mothers, daughters, place and belonging.”

Jo Case, Readings

“For the most part her account is fascinating, even exhilarating, and there is barely a dead word in the book. Tumarkin's viewpoint is unfailingly insightful with an overlay of pungent Russian humour.”

Robert Dessaix, The Age

“The blend of background historical and cultural ballast with personal family anecdotes offers one fetching way into the metamorphoses in another culture's way of life.”

Mark Thomas, Canberra Times

“Otherland is for readers who love words, ideas, history, and current affairs; who enjoy going beyond the bland package holiday when they travel; who feel enriched by glimpsing the world through the eyes of cultures other than their own.”

5 stars, Good Reading magazine

“Part memoir, part travelogue, and part sweeping history of the tumultuous last hundred years of the Soviet Union, Maria Tumarkin's Otherland: A Journey with My Daughter, is that rare hybrid of a life narrative that manages to combine the intensely personal and political without getting either cloyingly affective or numbingly polemical. It is a compelling read and not the least of its pleasures is an idiosyncratic introduction to a host of East European writers and cultural literati's musings on language, the social dimension of memory, heroism and human suffering, the nature of art in the erstwhile Soviet Union, among other issues.”

Rajender Kaur, Transnational Literature

“The parts of the book where the complexities of this [mother/daughter] relationship are revealed and explored are honest and fascinating. Billie's diary entries are included, and this adds another rich layer. Tumarkin has a conversational style, full of humour and surprising, original turns of phrase. An enriching and unusual book I highly recommend.”

Sue Bond, The Courier-Mail

“The literary beauty of Otherland is essentially textual: multiple layers of memory and reflection, intertwining historical commentary, cultural and literary criticism, and personal reminiscence. It is at once a roadtrip of anecdotes peppered with yearning and longing as well as a politico-cultural window on a huge part of 20th century history.”

Ruth Wajnryb, The Sydney Morning Herald

“Thanks to this highly individual voice, Otherland is another smart and provocative read.”

Judith Armstrong, ABR


Awards & Recognition

  • The Age Book of the Year Award

    Shortlisted • 2010 • The Age Book of the Year Award (Non Fiction)

  • Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

    Shortlisted • 2010 • Victorian Premier's Literary Awards


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