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July: Anya von Bremzen and Sybil Baker

For Open Book this month my guests Anya von Bremzen and Sybil Baker.

Food critic Anya Von Bremzen’s most recent book National Dish is a fascinating reflection on how essential food is to national identity, especially in an era when globalization is creating a kind of universal identity where once difficult-to-source indigenous dishes have become ubiquitous and available in almost any supermarket anywhere.

Anya grew up in the USSR with her mother who loved food and daily lamented the paucity of choice in the grocery store—a fact that wasn’t lost on the Russian premier, Boris Yeltsin. When he visited a Western supermarket for the first time in the 1980’s he is reported to have said that it was at that moment that he realized the Soviet system was doomed.

Sybil Baker is an Assistant Professor in the English department here at UTC. She’s also on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Art’s inaugural low-residency international MFA program. She teaches classes in literature and creative writing here at UTC. Her most recent novel, just published, is titled Apparitions.

The novel is set in Cyprus. Cyprus is an island divided. In the early 1970’s the Turks invaded the island in a war with neighboring Greece. Fifty years later much of the island is Greek Cypriot, but a northern section of the island is still occupied by Turkey. The people living in the section of the island occupied by Turkey can’t cross the border into the part of the island controlled by Greece, but people living in the main part of the island can freely cross the border and often do because prices are much cheaper in what’s known as Northern Cyprus.

The novel was inspired by the semester Sybil spent as a visiting Assistant Professor at The Middle Eastern Technical University’s Northern Cyprus Campus in the Spring of 2015.