Marya Zhukova is a woman of many passions. Her husband isn't one of them. It's mathematics and literature that captivate her, in part, but her lover, Vera, enthralls her most of all. These are, however, all dangerous obsessions in the socially turbulent St. Petersburg of 1875. Marya is the fiery center of a small solar system of characters, each of whom depends on her to light their own lives. There is her aunt Lidia, a spinster who, dying of consumption, exacts from her niece a promise to marry. There is Grigorii, Marya's one-time math teacher, who longs for his former pupil to achieve the scholarly glory he cannot. There is Vera, a young tutor surprised to find she's fallen in love with a woman. There is Sergei, an earnest librarian captivated by Marya and willing to do whatever it takes to be near her, even if that means a platonic marriage. But when Sergei is consumed with desire for Marya, his anguish over the promise he made sets in motion a deadly chain of events. St. Petersburg itself adds a richness to these characters as they walk and muse along the city's canals or bounce along the rutted streets behind a hardy droshky driver on their way to dine at Privato or Leiner's Deli or to watch ballet at the Marinsky Theater. Inspired by a real-life account, Infraction takes place at a time when women who yearn for more find that freedom comes at a cost.
Praise for Infraction
"Infraction re-creates 19th-century Russia and what it was like to be a woman who loved women in that time and place. Marya, Yvonne Zipter's brilliant and feisty young heroine, lives through the excitement of revolutionary new ideas about women's rights, the delirium of passionate same-sex love, and the anguish caused by a society's refusal to acknowledge and honor women's relationships. Through Zipter's vivid and compelling writing, we walk every step of the way with Marya."Lovers
- Lillian Faderman, author of Surpassing the Love of Men, Odd Girls and Twilight
, and Naked in the Promised Land
"Infraction, the first novel by accomplished poet and nationally syndicated columnist Yvonne Zipter, is a poignant tale of suppressed yearning and potential. In 19th-century Russia, which is more of an infraction for Marya Zhukova, her love for mathematics or for a woman? Zipter's evocative book is based on a true story of a gifted gay geometer who was forbidden to follow both her head and her heart. Infraction will leave you reeling for how much has been squandered in the name of tradition and status quo."
- Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive! and The Bowl Is Already Broken
"Part adventure story, part cautionary tale, Infraction opens a door on the inner lives of women in 19th-century Russia whose desire to love and to live a life of the mind comes at a price. Daring, delightful, and dangerous, filled with vivid details and keen emotional insight, Zipter's novel is an important and intriguing exploration of the forbidden and transgressive at a time when what was not spoken too often hid a life-or-death truth."
-Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men
"With elegant prose and authentic period detail, Yvonne Zipter's Infraction brings to vibrant life an aspect of tzarist Russian society all-too frequently ignored: women's same-sex romances and struggles to secure the dignity of independence."
- Daniel M. Jaffe, translator of the best-selling Russian novel, Here Comes the Messiah!