I Will Die in a Foreign Land

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5.6 X 7.6 X 1.0 inches | 1.0 pounds

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About the Author

Kalani Pickhart is the author of the historical novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land, which has received praise from CBS News, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, and more. The novel is long-listed for the Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award, and was named one of the New York Public Library's "Best Books for Adults" of 2021. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, TriQuarterly Review, and elsewhere. Kalani was selected as an inaugural 2022 New Voices Literary Fellow for the Sun Valley Writers' Conference and has been the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Intelligence for Eastern European and Eurasian Studies. Kalani currently lives and writes in Phoenix, Arizona. Find more here: kalanipickhart.com


^ Author photo by Sydney Cisco.

Read an excerpt from CBS News (February 6, 2022):
Book excerpt: I Will Die In a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart

American Booksellers Association Indie Next List pick for November 2021.
Best Books of 2021
--New York Public Library, Cosmopolitan, Independent Book Review
"October 2021 Must-Reads"
--Debutiful, The Chicago Review of Books, The Millions

Kalani Pickhart's timely debut novel, I Will Die In a Foreign Land, is about the 2014 Ukrainian revolution which provided a pretense for Russia to annex Crimea. The story follows the experiences of several characters whose lives intersect as the country's political situation deteriorates. There's a Ukrainian-American doctor, an old KGB spy, a former mine worker, and others, and these episodes are interspersed with folk songs, news reports and historical notes. The effect--kaleidoscopic but never confusing--provides an intimate sense of a country convulsing, mourning, and somehow surviving.
--CBS News, The Book Report: Recommendations from Washington Post critic Ron Charles
(Watch the full video on CBS News, February 6, 2022).

I tore through I Will Die in a Foreign Land. It's terrific. I've been following the alarming news about Putin's machinations along the Ukrainian border, but nothing has given me such a profound impression of what Ukrainians have endured as this intensely moving novel.
--Ron Charles, Washington Post
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

"Sometimes, fiction does a better job of getting to the heart of a subject than nonfiction. This unusual novel takes place during the 2014 Maidan protests that ended in bloodshed and precipitated the removal of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. It follows several characters as they participate in the protests and learn to live with unimaginable loss in the midst of violent upheaval and repression."
--Eileen Gonzalez, BookRiot

Pickhart's characters are rich and real, flawed and scared, brave and noble. They betray and they are betrayed, sexually and politically and in every other way. They are shaped by individual choices and the terrible choices forced on them by history. They're humans caught in a current.... By telling stories of those who live in history but refuse to fully succumb to it, Pickhart recuperates the humanity of the people of Ukraine and celebrates their lives as human beings, not as footnotes to someone else's history.
--Brian O'Neill, Necessary Fiction
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

"Camera-eye perspective of the Ukraine Euromaidan protests--if John Dos Passos and John Reed joined Pussy Riot--rich, variegated characters, tense plot. A must read for anyone inclined toward world literature."
--ABA Indie Next List: Conor Hultman, Square Books (Oxford, MS)
I Will Die in a Foreign Land is an ABA Indie Next List pick for November 2021

A debut that is as thoughtful as it is explosive.
--Wendy J. Fox, BuzzFeed
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

Via a chorus of voices infused with folklore, this novel follows four individuals during a volatile Ukrainian winter, as their lives become intertwined and are forever changed by the protests triggered by their president's alignment with Russia instead of the EU in 2013.
--New York Public Library
Best Books for Adults 2021

2021 was a badass year for indie press books. This isn't anything new. Indie presses are always pushing boundaries, bending genres, breaking new ground, and changing the scope of the literary landscape... here is this year's roundup of Impressive Indie Press Books of 2021.
--Joe Walters, Independent Book Review
View I Will Die in a Foreign Land on the 35 Impressive Indie Press Books of 2021

This novel spans a whole century, starting in 1913 with a ballet that starts a riot and picking up in 2013--which, TBH, feels like it was a hundred years from now. It's told from multiple perspectives and points in history, giving you a fully immersive experience that's perfect for a winter read.
--Adrianna Freedman & Leah Marilla Thomas, Cosmopolitan
Best Historical Fiction Novels of 2021

Since 1991, Ukraine has experienced three revolutions, and Pickhart elegantly captures how these events build up inside a person, giving many Ukrainians an acute awareness of the self as both agent and consequence of history. For a man like Aleksandr Ivanovich, who wears insignia of the fallen Soviet empire to the 21st-century revolution, each uprising bleeds into the next. The book's structure enhances this duality through short, fragmented chapters, folk songs, news clips, and a chorus of Kobzari bards; history is rendered diffuse and polyphonic, a tapestry of actors, concerns, and subplots. In our conversation, Pickhart discussed the elaborate form of her novel and the shifting relationships between revolution's heroes and aggressors, its insiders and outsiders.
--Sonya Bilocerkowycz, author of On Our Way Home from the Revolution, speaks with author Kalani Pickhart about her debut novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land, for The Los Angeles Review of Books

The book is gripping, the stories of the characters wrap around each other like vines, and around the reader--choking and pulling them through. Pickhart uses the device of the Kobzari folk singers whose lyrics function like a Greek chorus, weaving together the pain of the individual characters and placing it in a broader cultural context.
--Katya Apekina, author of The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, speaks with author Kalani Pickhart about her debut novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land, for Electric Literature

First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing podcast 11/15/2021
Host Mitzi Rapkin and Kalani Pickhart in conversation about writing the complexities of the 2013 Ukrainian Protests in Pickhart debut novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land.

Burned By Books podcast: An interview with Kalani Pickhart 12/31/2021
From host Chris Holmes -- Russia is again amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. There are threats of more sanctions from the US and the EU, but those come with a tacit understanding that there is likely little that the world can do to stop Putin should he decide to invade. It is within this frightening context that Kalani Pickhart's extraordinary novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, enters the scene. The novel itself is a beautiful pastiche of forms: novelistic plots mix with songs and folktales, manifests of passengers killed in downed planes or in the melee of protest, diaries and recordings, all working to build a feeling, the urge for a democratic voice to speak against violence and despair. Kalani and I discuss the burden of writing true in a work of fiction, and so much more!

Phoenix author Kalani Pickhart's debut novel is a fascinating, genre-bending ride through the 2013 protests in Ukraine that led to a deadly winter and, ultimately, the Ukrainian Revolution... It's a gripping take on modern historical fiction that will be especially compelling to those interested in Eastern European politics.
--Leah LeMoine, PHOENIX magazine
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

I'd sure like to be a part of the decision-making process for the Pulitzer or the National Book Award right now. If I had any say in it, I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart would win. I don't say that lightly... The exploration of love and its many complicated facets is the driving force of I Will Die In a Foreign Land. The inciting incident is the protest and the desire for human rights and dignity inherent in that action, but I'd argue the real gem of the story is love. This may sound trite, but it's not--at least not in Pickhart's deft writerly hands.
--Mandy Shunnarah, Hot Off the Shelf
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

Pickhart's characters are alive. You can almost touch them and hear their unique voices. She perfectly fleshes out the individuality of the major characters and those around them with such precision that no one speaks or thinks the same. The movements and decisions of the characters follow real events of the times, making the novel appear like a documentary. By doing this she captures the reader's interest, and a chronology of important events is listed in the book to help us better understand the flow of the narrative.
--Eunice Barbara Novio, Litro
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

What author Kalani Pickhart has achieved is a novel that is at once tragic and beautiful. Taking a variety of mediums, from non-linear storytelling, newspaper accounts, and ancient Ukranian folk songs, at times it seems the novel's main protagonist is [Ukraine] and the characters are simply there to flesh out this complex region of the world... I Will Die in a Foreign Land is simply breathtaking in its scope. Pickhart's storytelling is flawless with nothing gratuitous or superfluous. She has taken a large, complex subject and rendered it both tragic and tender by reminding the reader that in the end, the individual life touched by conflict is what really matters.
--Cynthia A. Graham, New York Journal of Books
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

The risk in war and revolution is that human kindness will be extinguished forever, but Kalani Pickhart shows the ways that our loves affect us more deeply and permanently than the ever shifting forces of history. This makes a political struggle that might be a bit confusing for western readers much more accessible--we all know what it's like to experience love and loss. It also personalizes the conflict. After all, why do we fight, if not to avoid burying the ones we love?
--Rufus Hickok, Ordinary Times
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

Blending folklore, journalism, and a quartet of interwoven narratives, Kalani Pickhart's debut novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, takes place during the 2013-14 Ukrainian Revolution amidst a wave of winter protests. Set in Kyiv at the heart of the civil unrest, the novel is orchestral and electrifying, with its main characters--Katya, Misha, Slava, and Aleksandr--orbiting around its central location.
--Aram Mrjoian, Chicago Review of Books
(Read the full interview with author Kalani Pickhart)

Set in Ukraine during a pivotal winter, Pickhart follows four individuals during the Euromaidan protests. The four cannot be more different, but they are united by the same desires to survive and make something of themselves. While expansive, this is an intimate portrait of the human condition, proving that even in the darkness, there is hope.
--Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
Six Debut Books You Should Read This October

The sort of ambitious debut novel that makes you sit up and take notice, Kalani Pickhart's sprawling and rambunctious portrait of the 2013 Ukrainian protests that led to the killing of over a hundred civilians announces an exciting new voice in fiction. Unfolding with the assurance and daring of a much more seasoned writer, I Will Die in a Foreign Land will appeal to readers of history and tragedy alike.
--The Chicago Review of Books
12 Must-Read Books of October

In Pickhart's debut, which is set during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, four people's lives overlap, intersect, and irrevocably change in the face of personal, political, and historical turmoil.
--Carolyn Quimby, The Millions
The Millions Most Anticipated (October)

In Pickhart's ardent, sprawling debut, a set of memorable characters attempt to lay bare the truths of recent conflicts in [Ukraine]... This bighearted novel generously portrays the unforgettable set of characters through their determination to face oppression. It's a stunner.
--Publishers Weekly, Starred review
(read the full Publishers Weekly review here)

The lives of four people intersect during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution... Innovative, emotionally resonant, and deeply affecting, this is a more-than-promising debut from a very talented writer.
--Kirkus, Starred review
(read the full Kirkus review here)

In this sweeping debut novel, readers are transported inside the 2013-14 Ukrainian battle to maintain independence under pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.... an unforgettable reading experience and a critical lesson in ongoing global history.
--Courtney Eathorne, Booklist

The historical novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land is a love letter to Ukraine, its people, and its ability to rise up from piled catastrophes.
--Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword

Protests that sparked the 2014 revolution in Ukraine provide the context for Pickhart's dazzling debut novel. Drawing from the folkloric oral history of Ukraine and fusing it with the reporting from journalists, Pickhart focuses on a quartet of characters at the center of a Kyiv protest against the president in which more than 100 people were massacred. Pickhart fully develops these intersecting characters, from an American doctor to a former KGB spy, deftly changing points of view, all of which is enhanced by a chorus of past Ukrainian singers killed by a Russian czar.
--The National Book Review
(Read the full review of I Will Die in a Foreign Land)

I Will Die in a Foreign Land is sweeping, touching, and powerful.
--Superstition Review

Love triangles, grieving parents, sex trafficking, the KGB, Chernobyl, the Euromaidan protests--I Will Die in a Foreign Land has it all. This bold, intricate novel is as rich and complex as the Ukrainian history it describes with such precision and longing. In spite of their unspeakable personal and political tragedies, the people in this book will fill you with hope for a better world long after you turn the last page.
--Maria Kuznetsova, author of Oksana, Behave! and Something Unbelievable

"I Will Die in a Foreign Land is an antidote to safe or insular fiction. Kalani Pickhart casts her gaze both outward and inward, to decades of fractious history and the ways loss marks the human heart. How does a person, or a nation, endure and transform? The novel asks big questions and offers up answers written with an unerring sense of character and astonishingly beautiful language."
--Caitlin Horrocks, author of Life Among the Terranauts, This Is Not Your City, and The Vexations

Kalani Pickhart's I Will Die in a Foreign Land hums with the intensity of a live wire. Told in intertwining strands of folklore, history, audio recordings, story, and song, the novel offers a complicated and often brutal portrait of Ukraine's recent past. An innovative and electric debut: Pickhart writes with vividness, empathy, and unforgettable insight.
--Allegra Hyde, author of Eleutheria and Of This New World

I Will Die in a Foreign Land beautifully illustrates the palimpsest of history, both on the global scale, as old wars give way to new, and the personal, as old loves give way to new. This novel perfectly captures the tragedy and romance of those willing to die for their beliefs.
--Ayşe Papatya Bucak, author of
The Trojan War Museum

Beseeching and beautiful, I Will Die in a Foreign Land is an ode to the inescapable difficulty of being both an individual and a citizen of the world. Rich with grief, folklore, and political will, Kalani Pickhart has written a novel of such intricacy that each moment expands and contracts to encompass more than time itself allows. It moved me deeply.
--Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire, The Daughters, and the forthcoming End of the World House

Kalani Pickhart's I Will Die in a Foreign Land is of the best kind of protest novels: one that makes you cry, and then makes you mad as hell. It is so far the best artistic treatment of the Euromaidan and Crimean situation, at turns tense, melancholy, and over-abundantly compassionate. This book is both the napalm and the bandages in one.
--Conor Hultman, Square Books (Oxford, MS)

Kyiv, Ukraine, 2013. Katya, Misha, Slava, and Alexsandr Ivanovich all orbit around a makeshift medical clinic at the center of violent protests in debut author Kalani Pickhart's I Will Die in a Foreign Land. This book illuminated much about the period for me, and it did so because I was so thoroughly invested in its compelling characters. How Pickhart manages to construct such a solid and compelling story amid the chaos of the events portrayed (and even incorporates Slavic history and folklore) is unfathomable to me, but she does. You will care about these characters, you will agonize with them over the choices they are forced to make, and you will put this book down, haunted and grieving, but also inspired.
--Lisa Swayze, Buffalo Street Books (Ithaca, NY)

In a powerful rendition of Ukraine's troubled past and recent events Kalani Pickhart draws readers into the lives of characters who converge around the 2013 violent repression of demonstrations in Kyiv... With a fresh, bold narrative style that joins reportage and deep character study, Pickhart delivers a series of provocative set pieces that underscore the weight of historical memory and the toll of Russian domination. An eye-opening novel by a stunningly talented writer.
--Lori Feathers, Interabang Books (Dallas, TX)

Set in motion by the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014 and a particular demonstration in Kyiv, Pickhart's debut novel weaves its way through the lives of four main characters: Katya, an American doctor who has fled the US and her failing marriage to treat wounded protesters in a converted monastery; Aleksandr, a pianist and former Soviet agent who is suffering from a potentially fatal injury; Misha, a widower and an engineer who is searching for his friend, fellow protester, and erstwhile lover, Slava, an activist. As the narrative unfolds, we see how each of the characters, major and minor, are held in a web, every action or inaction rippling throughout.
--10/19/2021 newsletter, Longfellow Books, Portland, ME

I have never felt quite so speechless when finishing a book. This debut novel--unassuming in its size and yet sharp and intense in its story--completely caught me off guard. Pickhart depicts the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where Russia has long kept a tight hold and refused to recognize its status as an independent nation. In 2013, the Ukrainian Revolution and the ongoing War in Donbass broke out, as then-President Yanukovych refused to sign a referendum with the European Union, forging a closer alliance with Russia. This story follows four characters as they fight to secure sovereignty for their country and safety for their loved ones. Pickhart seems to write in the empty space between conflicts, in which life continues despite the hardships of war, and she shows the resiliency of the individual in the face of oppression--the need to find beauty and love amidst destruction. Incredibly complex, heartbreaking, and insightful, this novel is an urgent argument for the presence of humanity in a time of violence.
--Natalie, Changing Hands Bookstore, Phoenix, AZ

I must admit, I was a bit intimidated by Kalani Pickhart's debut novel, I Will Die in a Foreign Land. I've not read a lot of books about Ukraine, their recent political struggle, and the people who have fought for their home--plus, I just thought it might be devastatingly sad. And of course, it is sad, but more than that, it's absolutely beautiful and clings to hope so desperately that I was left feeling optimism for the characters that people the novel and for Ukraine itself. Pickhart weaves together the history of Ukraine with the stories of four citizens who have come to the Maidan to fight for the country they love. They move in and out of each other's stories in such a lovely way; Pickhart's writing is quiet, understated, and unexpected. I can't wait to read more from her.
--Margaret Leonard, Dotters Books (Eau Claire, WI)

BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. This is a novel of historical fiction that largely focuses on the 2013-2014 Ukrainian revolution, but it also dives deeply into the history of the people, country, and region. What are some things that you learned about Ukraine and its history that you did not previously know?

2. The author chose to title the novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land: why do you think this is fitting? Which characters literally leave their homeland? What deeper meanings can you draw, considering the ancient and modern Slavic history that is sprinkled throughout the book?

3. The novel is comprised of multiple main narratives, spanning different periods of time, that are braided together along with frequent asides featuring folklore, history, and news related to Ukraine: what effect did this structure have on your reading experience? How do the asides add value to the ma