Friday 28 October 2022

Raising Raffi by Keith Gessen BLOG TOUR #RaisingRaffi #ABookAboutFatherhood @keithgessen @iconbooks @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Keith Gessen had always assumed that he would have kids, but couldn't imagine what parenthood would be like, nor what kind of parent he would be. Then, one Tuesday night in early June, Raffi was born, a child as real and complex and demanding of his parents' energy as he was singularly magical.

Fatherhood is another country: a place where the old concerns are swept away, where the ordering of time is reconstituted, where days unfold according to a child's needs. Like all parents, Gessen wants to do what is best for his child. But he has no idea what that is.

Written over the first five years of Raffi's life, Raising Raffi examines the profound, overwhelming, often maddening experience of being a dad. How do you instil in your child a sense of his heritage without passing on that history's darker sides? Is parental anger normal, possibly useful, or is it inevitably destructive? And what do you do, in a pandemic, when the whole world seems to fall apart? By turns hilarious and poignant, Raising Raffi is a story of what it means to invent the world anew.

Raising Raffi by Keith Gessen was published by Icon Books on 27 October 2022. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from Raising Raffi by Keith Gessen

I was not prepared to be a father—this much I knew. I didn’t have a job and I lived in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. I had always assumed that I’d have kids, but I had
spent zero minutes thinking about them. In short, though not young, I was stupid.

Emily told me she was pregnant when we were walking down Thirty-Fourth Street in Manhattan, on the way to Macy’s to shop for wedding rings. Our wedding was a few weeks away, and I had, as usual, put off preparing until the last minute. I had a fellowship at the time at the New York Public Library in mid- town, and I must have googled “wedding rings near me.” Macy’s it was. All around us on Thirty-Fourth Street people were shop- ping and hurrying and driving and honking. Emily told me, and I thought, “OK. Here we go. We are going to have a kid.”
Then I thought: We need to get some very cheap wedding rings at Macy’s.

I was born in Moscow and came to the United States with my parents and older sibling when I was six. I grew up in a suburb outside of Boston and found it boring and dreamed of leaving to become a writer. After college, I moved to New York and worked odd jobs and wrote short stories, which I sent to literary maga- zines, which never wrote me back. To see my name in print, I started doing journalism. I found I really liked it. I also started translating things—stories, an oral history, poems—from Rus- sian. Traveling to Russia and seeing its version of capitalism up close converted me to democratic socialism. Eventually I started a left-wing literary magazine, n+1, with some friends, published a novel, and traveled as much as possible to Russia to write about it. This was a decent literary career, truly more than I ever could have hoped for, but it did not bring in a lot of income; when Emily and I met I was living with two roommates in a grand but ancient and cockroach-infested apartment on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

At the time, Emily was a writer for Gawker, a media gossip website. She was brilliant, beautiful, and very funny; she could also be very mean. She had grown up in an upper-middle-class household in suburban Maryland, but she had a chip on her shoulder. She was also a very good cook. We dated for a while, broke up (she dumped me at a Starbucks in Cobble Hill that later closed during the pandemic), and then started dating again. Eventually we moved in together, to an apartment above a bar in Bedford-Stuyvesant. By this point Emily had quit working for Gawker and published a well-received book of essays. With her best friend, Ruth, she started a small feminist publishing house, Emily Books; she worked for a while at a publishing start-up, then got sick of it. The year she got pregnant, she published her first novel, Friendship, about two best friends whose relationship is disrupted when one of them gets . . . pregnant. I was working on my second novel, about Russia, and had received a yearlong fellowship at the New York Public Library to research and write it. The fellowship was the bulk of our in- come that year. Strictly speaking, we still didn’t have much money, but that was OK, because we also didn’t have any kids.

Now, at Macy’s, we couldn’t get the attention of the sales- woman in the giant ring section. I would have hung around until she got to us, but Emily looked disappointed—the mother of my child! I couldn’t make her wait. We got on the subway to Brooklyn and bought rings above our budget at a cute little store in Williamsburg.

I suppose it isn’t exactly true that I hadn’t thought about kids. I hadn’t thought about actual birth, or what sort of clothes a baby wears, or about the practicalities of early infancy. “As a child, from the moment I gained some understanding of what it entailed, I worried about childbirth,” writes Rachel Cusk in A Life’s Work, her dark, brilliant memoir of motherhood. She feared its pain and its violence and what would happen on the other side. To this, truly, I had given zero thought. 

Keith Gessen was born in Moscow in 1975 and came to the United States with his family when he
was six years old. 

He is a co-founder of the literary magazine n+1 and the author of the novels All the Sad Young Literary Men and A Terrible Country. 

He has translated or co-translated several books from Russian, including Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. 

He lives in New York with his wife, the author and publisher Emily Gould, and their two sons.

Twitter @keithgessen

No comments:

Post a Comment