Yasha Klots received his M.A. from Boston College in 2005 and Ph.D. in Russian literature from Yale in 2011, where he worked with Tomas Venclova. Before joining Hunter College in 2016, he taught at Georgia Institute of Technology, Williams College and Yale. In 2014-2016, he was a Humboldt Foundation Fellow at the Research Center for East European Studies at the University of Bremen, Germany. His research interests are Russian and East European émigré literature and publishing, contemporary Russian poetry, linguistic anthropology, bilingualism and literary translation, Gulag narratives (in particular, Shalamov), urbanism, the mythology of St. Petersburg and representation of other cities in Russian literature. He is the author of articles on Varlam Shalamov, Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky, Lev Loseff, Vladimir Nabokov, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ivan Bunin and Nina Berberova, Russian children’s poetry and New York City in Russian literature. In 2010, he published Joseph Brodsky in Lithuania (St. Petersburg: Perlov Design Center; in Russian), and co-translated, with Ross Ufberg, Tamara Petkevich’s Memoir of a Gulag Actress (DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP). His most recent book is Poets in New York: On City, Language, Diaspora (Moscow: NLO, 2016; in Russian), which includes his introduction and annotated interviews with 16 Russian and East European poets. He is currently working on a monograph Tamizdat, the Cold War and Contraband Russian Literature (1960-1970s) devoted to the circulation, reception and first publications of manuscripts from the Soviet Union in the West. At Hunter, he has designed and directed a summer program The Baltic Transit in Russian Literature, which explores representations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by Russian authors through mapping their itineraries and translating these texts into English.
Inara Verzemnieks is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming, published by W.W. Norton. A Pushcart Prize winner and the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, she previously worked as a newspaper journalist for thirteen years. Her essays and journalism have appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Tin House, The Iowa Review, and Creative Nonfiction. She is an assistant professor in the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, where she received her MFA.
Ambassador Jim Melville is President and CEO of the Global Alliance South Carolina, whose mission is to stimulate education exchanges, research collaborations and business partnerships with stakeholders in South Carolina, Estonia, Israel and beyond, with a goal of enhancing economic prosperity. Ambassador Melville has concurrent duties with the College of Charleston, where he serves as the Associate Dean for International and Community Outreach at the College’s School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs (LCWA), and as a member of the faculty.
Jim Melville was a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State for 33 years, retiring in the autumn of 2018 after serving as U.S. Ambassador to Estonia. Highlights of his career include serving as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in Germany, Minister Counselor and often Chargé d'affaires (CDA) in Berlin, London and Moscow, and as Executive Director of the Bureaus of European and Eurasian Affairs and International Organization Affairs in Washington, DC. Overseas, Jim also served in Seychelles, St. Petersburg and Paris; at the U.S. Mission to NATO; and at the U.S. Embassy to the German Democratic Republic. His domestic assignments at the State Department included tours of duty as a Senior Watch Office, a Foreign Service Examiner and in Legislative Affairs.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ambassador Melville spent three years as a litigation attorney in New Jersey and New York, specializing in general practice. He speaks Russian, German, and French. Melville graduated from Boston University with an honors degree in history, and earned J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law. He is a retired member of the bars of New Jersey and New York and lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina with his wife of 35 years, Joanna Melville.