By Elizabeth Graver
“They traveled with no documents,” writes Vanessa Manko of Julia and Austin, the central couple in her debut novel, “The Invention of Exile.’’ “By marrying him, Julia was no longer an American citizen. Austin was stateless, but, as far as he was concerned, they were Russian. Only Russia no longer existed. It had been stamped out.’’ Manko’s story follows immigrant Austin from Bridgeport, Conn., in the grip of the Red Scare in the early 1920s, to Russia during its Civil War, to Mexico in the 1940s, with stops in France and Turkey. Rich in history and far-reaching in scope, “The Invention of Exile’’ is an achingly painful and all too relevant meditation on what can happen to identity when human beings are crammed inside an unforgiving container of politics, bureaucracy, and fear.
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