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Author of the week: Karolina Waclawiak

Waclawiak has upended the immigrant’s tale with her debut novel, “How to Get Into the Twin Palms.”

Karolina Waclawiak has upended the immigrant’s tale, said Roxane Gay in TheRumpus.net. Her debut novel, How to Get Into the Twin Palms, concerns a young Polish woman, Anya, trying to assimilate in Los Angeles. The twist is that her aim is to fit in by passing as a Russian, which will allow her to see what’s behind the doors of the exclusive Russian nightclub across the street from her apartment. “I wasn’t interested in doing a straight immigrant narrative,” says Waclawiak, who arrived in the U.S. from Poland at age 2. Making Anya want to pass as a Russian, says Waclawiak, was “a really transgressive act.” Russians and Poles have similar cultures, she says, but “a very acrimonious relationship.”

Waclawiak knows about being on the outside looking in, said John Williams in NYTimes.com. Growing up, she felt neither American nor Polish. “I don’t remember our journey at all, but it’s had a large impact on me,” she says, noting that she loves novelist Gary Shteyngart’s term for people who immigrated as young children—“the 1.5 generation.” Says Waclawiak, “You have a history associated with ‘the old country,’ but are so displaced from it that you don’t necessarily feel an allegiance to it, or any place at all.” The former L.A. resident also knows what it’s like to want to get into the Twin Palms, which was a real nightclub near her old apartment. “It was a mysterious place,” she says. “I wanted to know what was going on inside but didn’t have the privilege of access.”

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