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What Language Do I Dream In?

About the Book

A moving and erudite memoir on the importance of language to who we are, and an ode to the language that has given the author a home in exile

Elena Lappin’s life could be described as “five languages in search of an author.” She now lives in London, but she was born in Russia and has lived in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Israel, Canada and the United States. As a multiple émigré, her decision to write in English was the unexpected result of many wanderings, and this memoir tells the story of finding a voice in a language that is not one’s own. Russian, Czech, German, Hebrew and finally English: How do they, and the family roots and cultures they represent, define who Lappin is, and how has adopting English allowed her to be a writer?

The story of Lappin’s identity is unexpectedly complicated by the discovery, in middle age, that her biological father was an American living in Russia. Their encounter introduces an element of mystery to the search for her roots, and a surprise: suddenly, English is more than the accidental “home in exile”—it is the language she may have been close to from the very beginning.

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Critical Praise

“Elena Lappin is a marvelous writer. Her riveting memoir describes living in five languages and as many countries. The family relationships and the political upheavals which so often shape them are complex, yet her writing is as readable and warm as a letter from a friend.” —Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Gorsky

“Captivating . . . so sparkly with vitality, humour and genuine charm.” —Diana Athill

“A meditation on family secrets, loss, and personal belonging, Lappin’s book reveals how, in the absence of rootedness, language can become the ‘shelter’ and home that nurtures selfhood and identity. A thoughtful, unique meditation on exile and homecoming.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lappin presents a thoughtful migrant’s memoir that will speak to all those of us who find their lives suspended between nations, cultures, languages.” —Dan Vyleta, Giller Prize-shortlisted author of The Crooked Maid and the national bestseller Smoke

“Elena Lappin’s tale is an archetype of post-war political upheaval, her travels and migrations a reflection of world events. But it is also an extraordinarily personal account of a modern life that is uniquely Jewish. . . . Remarkable.” —Jewish Chronicle

“In characteristically elegant prose, Lappin takes readers on a brave personal journey as she uncovers painful family secrets set against a backdrop of political cruelty and perpetual motion. . . . [A] book full of optimism, deeply resonant with today’s world of global dislocation.” —Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781554684632
  • ISBN 10: 1554684633
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 03/14/2017
  • Pages: 320
  • List Price: 32.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs

What Language Do I Dream In? by Elena Lappin

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