Yelena Akhtiorskaya

b. 1985

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Yelena Akhtiorskaya until we are able to commission a full entry.

Yelena Akhtiorskaya.

Courtesy of Sarah Shatz.

Yelena Akhtiorskaya transformed her own family’s immigrant experience into her ambitious debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase. Born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1985, Akhtiorskaya immigrated to the United States with her family in 1992 when she was seven years old. They settled in the expatriate community in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, otherwise known as “Little Odessa.” She graduated from Hunter College with a degree in literature in 2007 and earned her MFA from Columbia University in 2009. As a young writer, she was hesitant to draw on her own experiences for fear of writing stories that were too esoteric for a mainstream audience. Only while working towards her MFA did she find the confidence to use Russian and immigrant characters in her fiction. The shift was a success—in 2010 she began publishing her first stories in n+1, The New Republic, and other journals. In 2014 she published her first novel, Panic in a Suitcase, which follows three generations of a family from Odessa to Brooklyn and back again in a complex modern tale of assimilation and individuality. That year she was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35.” Since 2014, she has completed residencies with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and as a MacDowell fellow in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She has written for various publications including The New Republic and Tablet


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Yelena Akhtiorskaya." (Viewed on April 18, 2024) <>.