David Bezmozgis, an award-winning writer and filmmaker, was born in Riga, Latvia—then a republic of the Soviet Union—in 1973. He immigrated with his family to Toronto, Canada, when he was six years old. He is the author of two short story collections, Natasha and Other Stories (2004) and Immigrant City (2019), and two novels, The Free World (2011) and The Betrayers (2014).
His work has primarily focused on stories of emigration from the Soviet Union to Canada; his first short story collection, Natasha, focuses on the experience of a child enmeshed in the process of acculturation after his family makes this move. The stories are set in the early 1980s at the height of the Soviet Jewry movement, an international movement advocating for Jews who wanted to leave the USSR. “Roman Berman, Massage Therapist” focuses in particular on the complex relationship between Soviet Jews and the North American Jewish communities that advocated for and hosted them.
Part of an expanding literature by English-language Jewish writers who emigrated from the Soviet Union as children or young adults, Bezmozgis’s “Roman Berman, Massage Therapist” is, arguably, one of the most thought-provoking and rich texts dealing with this experience.
Cover image: “Remember Soviet Jews" stamp. From the personal collection of Sasha Senderovich; belonged to Norman (z”l) and Minna Halperin of Springfield, Massachusetts.