Associate Professor Gary Shteyngart Appears in Best American Essays 2022

Jessie Shohfi
November 21, 2022

“My Gentile Region,” an essay by Associate Professor Gary Shteyngart, has been included in this year’s Best American Essays collection.

The 20 essays that appear in this year's collection were selected from thousands based on their exemplary mastery of the form. The editor for the 2022 Best American Essays is Alexander Chee, author and essayist. 

In “My Gentile Region,” Shteyngart addresses immigrant and religious identity through his recounting of a tale of medical trauma–stemming from an incomplete circumcision that was performed on him when he was seven years old. Decades after this initial procedure, a small ingrown hair in what a nurse terms his “Gentile region” starts out as a mildly inconvenient, mostly humorous debacle, but ends up becoming a much more serious medical issue. 

“My problems can be traced back to Chapter 17 of Genesis,” he writes. “God tells the ninety-nine-year-old Abram that he will be the father of many nations, super fruitful, and that his kids will be the sole owners and operators of the land of Canaan; that his ninety-year-old wife, Sarai (soon to be Sarah), will bear him an Isaac (or Itzhak—“he who will laugh”); and that henceforth he will be called Abraham. There’s only one small catch: 'Every male among you shall be circumcised.'”

Shteyngart’s essay originally appeared in The New Yorker, and is available to read on their website under the title “A Botched Circumcision and Its Aftermath.” 

On Wednesday, November 2, Shteyngart appeared at Book Culture for the launch of the collection. He read from his essay, alongside editor Chee and fellow essayists Andrea Long Chu, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Tanner Akoni Laguatan. 

Best American Essays 2022 is published by Mariner Books. The collection is currently available for purchase

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972, and came to the United States seven years later. His memoir, Little Failure (2014) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was selected as one of the best books of the year by over 45 news magazines and journals around the world. Shteyngart is also the author of the novels Lake Success (2018), Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Absurdistan (2006) and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002). His work has been translated into 29 languages. Super Sad True Love Story won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was selected as one of the best books of the year by over 40 news journals and magazines around the world. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time. The Russian Debutante’s Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications.