Little Foxes Took Up Matches
An arresting coming of age, an exploration of gender, a modern folktale, a powerful portrait of a family—Katya Kazbek breaks out as a new voice to watch.
When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels?
After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life.
Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices.
“Many have tried and failed to summon the magic Katya Kazbek wields here as matter of factly as a switchblade. A relief, really, to read a debut novel as original as this–as cunning, wild and free.”
—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
“An unpredictable love story that is mesmeric, totally original, and deeply, deeply touching, Little Foxes Took Up Matches examines our competing human instincts to belong and to escape. Kazbek has reinvented—and bewitched—the coming-of-age genre, and I can’t wait to succumb to whatever magic she writes next.”
—Courtney Maum, author of
“A luscious modern queer fable drawn in post-Soviet Russian red lipstick. Kazbek’s dreamy family of misfits forged in the feminine occult will stay with you forever. Brava!”
—Sophia Shalmiyev, author of Mother Winter