Taking its title from a question often asked of polyglots, What Language Do I Dream In? is Elena Lappin’s stunning memoir about how language runs throughout memory and family history to form identity. Lappin’s life could be described as “five languages in search of an author,” and as a multiple emigre, her decision to write in English was the result of many wanderings. Russian, Czech, German, Hebrew, and finally, English: each language is a link to a different piece of Lappin’s rich family mosaic and the struggle to find a voice in a language not one’s own.From Europe to North America–and back again, via some of the twentieth century’s most significant political upheavals–Lappin reconstructs the stories and secrets of her parents and grandparents with the tenderness of a novelist and the eye of a documentary filmmaker. 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. This revelation makes her question the very bedrock of her knowledge of her birth, and adds a surprising twist: suddenly, English may be more than the accidental “home in exile”–it is a language she may have been close to from the very beginning. “English is not my mother tongue,” writes Elena Lappin, “it is something more valuable: a language I was lucky enough to be able to choose.” What Language Do I Dream In? is a wonderful, honest story about love, family, memory, and how they intertwine to form who we are.
What Language Do I Dream In?
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Elena Lappin is a writer and editor. Born in Moscow, she grew up in Prague and Hamburg, and has lived in Israel, Canada, the United States and -- longer than anywhere else -- in London. She is the author of Foreign Brides and The Nose, and has contributed to numerous publications, including Granta, Prospect, the Guardian, and The New York Times Book Review.
Elena Lappin can absorb new languages like a sponge absorbing water: a useful gift, since a life begun in Russia soon swept her from country to country, and she could live comfortably in each of them. But in which could she go that one step further, and find her true self as the writer she knew herself to be? This book is her story of her search for that special language. It is a captivating book, so sparkly with vitality, humour and genuine charm that English readers have to love itand feel lucky. Because the language Lappin finally homed in on is theirs!
Diana Athill, author of "After a Funeral," and "Somewhere Towards the End""