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Arts & Culture

'Talking Art' with novelist John Shallman


Rock Island native John Shallman recently published his first novel, Return from Siberia.

Published by Skyhorse Publishing and distributed by Simon & Schuster, the book follows the true story of John’s maternal grandfather, Joseph Rakow, as a young revolutionary during the rule of Tsar Nicholas II in Russia.  Exiled to Siberia in 1903 at the age of fifteen, Joseph survives and ultimately emigrates to Chicago.


A century old manuscript, discovered by John Shallman and his family and translated from his grandfather’s native Yiddish, forms the basis of the novel.  In alternating chapters, Joseph Rakow’s journey across continents, as well as across various social and political divides, is detailed as we simultaneously follow the contemporary lives of John Simon’s family (i.e. John Shallman) in Los Angeles.

Listen to the conversation here with John Shallman about the parallels between the debate over immigration, worker’s rights, and income disparity that his grandfather faced and that our country is currently grappling with; the lessons John learned about himself after reading his grandfather’s manuscript; and the love of family that permeates his contemporary life as well as his ancestors’.

According to Simon & Schuster, “Return from Siberia is a timely appraisal of modern politics and society juxtaposed with an inside look into the machinations of a young political mind 100 years ago.”

You can purchase Return from Siberia from major book retailers, or online.