“Nina Barragan” is the pen name of Rocío Lasansky Weinstein. A fiction writer, her work has appeared in numerous quarterlies and journals, including West Branch, The Revista / Review Interamericana, and The Long Story.
Barragan was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1943 and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, where she obtained her BA in English from the University of Iowa. Barragan has traveled extensively, and has resided in Ibiza, Spain, Bergen-an-Zee, Holland, Regina, Saskatchewan, and in Teeswater, Ontario, where she completed her first collection of short fiction. In 1963, she married artist, Alan Weinstein.
In 1988, Barragan published “The Egyptian Man.” The large 15” x 20” format livre d’artiste, includes Barragan’s story and six original etchings by Weinstein.
The Egyptian Man tells the story of a couple from Maine, forced to sell their prized possession: a small, ancient limestone carving of an Egyptian prince. Their only child, Justin, was “born with the soul of a woman,” and the Egyptian man is to be sold to pay for an operation they hope will bring him peace. The anguish of the decision and the sensitivity with which it is handled are the core of this poignant, contemporary tale. Weinstein’s accompanying etchings are direct and unfettered, lean and spare and convey an eerie sense of isolation and fate.
Both the plates and text for The Egyptian Man are hand-printed on English water color paper, and housed in a maroon cloth-covered folio stamped in 24 ct. gold. The unique book was published in a limited edition of 35 signed and numbered copies. The Des Moines Public Library owns the first copy of The Egyptian Man – other books are in private collections and public institutions including Princeton University, the National Library of Canada, McMaster University, and the University of Iowa.
In 1989, Barragan was named a winner in the New Rivers Press Minnesota Voices Project Competition, for a collection of short stories. Her book, NO PEACE AT VERSAILLES, was released in the fall of 1990. The second edition appeared in December, 1991.
What’s been said about: No Peace at Versailles:
“In her first collection of stories, Nina Barragan tells quiet tales of the everyday compromises, deceptions and sorrows of family life. Setting her stories in such diverse places as Spain and small town America, she focuses primarily on women who struggle to find room for themselves amid the unrelenting pressures of marriage and children….Many of the stories in No Peace at Versailles, open suddenly to reveal worlds both bizarre and believable.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“These elegant stories, as crisp and exact as origami, generally portray women trapped in conventional lives, haunted by past events and tempted by invitations to adventure that threaten to disturb their order. These tales are emotional riddles; twists and turns are part of their charm. An acute sensitivity to women’s roles knits the pieces together, while the inclusion of women of all ages and the variety of settings — Argentina, France, the US and elsewhere — breathes diversity into the whole.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Barragan has a gift for freshness and empathy. She presents people on the brink of changes in their lives. Some are timid, some are adventurous; most are shown to us at a point of choice, under emotional strain, attempting to cope with the chasms between reality and fantasy.”
– Des Moines Register
“It’s amazing how deeply you get to know the personalities of these characters in only thirteen or so pages of text. Or perhaps it isn’t that amazing, considering that Nina Barragan seems capable, in story after story, of writing into existence characters who are believable people…and [who] stay alive in a reader’s mind long after a particular story has ended.”
– WestBranch Review
In 2001, Barragan published Losers and Keepers in Argentina.
What’s been said about: Losers and Keepers in Argentina:
This poignant fictional journal presents the life of Rifke Schulman, a Russian Jew, who came to Argentina in 1889 at the age of 18 and helped set up a small agricultural colony called Moises Ville. Rifke’s journal and the accompanying short stories introduce Bela Palatnik, a victim of the white slave trade; Henoch Rosenvitch, the love of Rifke’s life; Leah Uberman on the way to attend Moises Ville’s centennial celebration; and many others. The book spans the last hundred years and examines the experience of Jewish immigrants both in North and South America, some of whom were nourished by their roots, others who severed their ties to an old way of life. In looking at the choices they all made — finding love or shutting themselves off from it, Nina Barragan offers a moving and multidimensional portrait of early 20th century Argentina and its contemporary descendants.
– The University of New Mexico Press
“…the author’s Balzacian talents come to the fore. Destiny, conceived as an inscrutable machine that moves ahead without mercy, plays a major role. It twists and turns, and, while it does, it swallows everything that appears in its path. Still, Barragan’s characters retain a sense of pride and self-awareness that make them believe they are free to choose.”
– Ilan Stavans, from the introduction to Losers and Keepers in Argentina
“She relies on factual chronology to travel the length of the century, which draws on [her] fictional diaries and chronicles. At times she breaks with her one dimensional narrative to produce poignant scenes of love and loyalty….Losers and Keepers in Argentina is about faith preserved and customs and traditions lost…an important novel…”
– Andrew Graham-Yooll The Buenos Aires Herald
Barragan is presently at work on a new book of fiction.
What’s been said about: Printmaker’s Daughter, Painter’s Wife:
Nina Barragan is not just a printmaker’s daughter and a painter’s wife, and her exquisite, intimate book is no mere memoir. Underneath the placidly ironic title, she explores the ways we sketch our illusions in life and fiction, as she takes her reader on a luminously insightful and captivating journey of a woman’s self-scrutiny. Barragan is a quietly forceful writer, and her arresting tale teases strands of untamed memories into stories of displacement, erasure, duality, authenticity and the desire for transformation. This is the true art of writing: on the surface and deep underneath.
Professor, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison
An intricate tapestry of family life that spans both continents and decades. Barragan is a master of the small, telling detail, lovingly recalled and deftly woven into the story. Hers is a wise and generous vision; to experience the world as she describes it is to come away enriched.
—Yona Zeldis McDonough,
Fiction Editor, Lilith Magazine
Nina Barragan’s memoir is a deftly stitched quilt of many colours, a rich evocation of a writer’s formation and a thought-provoking meditation on the roots of creativity.
“The Subway Car”, Wascana Review, Regina, Saskatchewan, Vol.2 No.1. 1967. (as Rocio Weinstein.)
“Für Elise Before the War”, The Antigonish Review, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Winter Issue No. 40, 1980. (as Emily Holis McIver.)
“Mia Bronf and The Russians”, Quarry, Kingston, Ontario, 29/4, 1981. (as Rocio Weinstein.)
“A Dream For Leonard”, WestBranch, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Spring Issue, 1981.
“How did Mama Dance, My Love?”, Salome, Chicago, Illinois, 22/23, 1981.
“Cora Jowleski’s Julio”, Revista/Review Interamericana, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Vol. XI, No.2, Summer, 1981.
“Five White Shirts”, The Long Story, North Andover, Massachusetts, No.2, Spring, 1984.
“Friends of the Teatro Colon”, Revista/Review InterAmericana, San Germán, Puerto Rico, Vol. XV, No.1-4, 1984.
“Friends of the Teatro Colon”, The House on Via Gambito: Writing by North American Women Abroad, New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1991.
Excerpt from Losers and Keepers in Argentina. Las crónicas de Rifke, Recreando La Cultura Judeoargentina /2 Literatura Y Artes Plasticas, Buenos Aries, Argentina. 2004.
“My Friend Alejandra and the Moment of Immersion” appeared in THE STONECOAST REVIEW, Portland, Maine, Winter, #10, 2019.
“Theodore Whistler’s Dilemma” 2nd place winner, LILITH, 2019 fiction competition. Appeared in the Spring issue with the title, “A Serious Infatuation”.
“Descendant Patterns”, World Letters, Iowa City, Iowa Vol. #2, 1991.
‘When Fiction Becomes Memory’, Open Spaces from the North American Review, September 17, 2019. Nina Barragan
“Mauricio Lasansky: View From A Spanish Bridge”, Kansas Quarterly, Manhattan, Kansas, Fall, Vol.14, #4, 1982.
“Mauricio Lasansky’s Kaddish Prints”, brochure, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, Iowa, 1985.
“MOISES VILLE, The Jerusalem of South America”, The B’nai B’rith International Jewish Monthly, Washington, D.C., January, 1991.
“Doing Archaeology in My America”, BECOMING AMERICAN, Personal Essays by First Generation Immigrant Women, Hyperion Books, New York, 2000.
“A Few Days In Cordoba: Mauricio Lasansky and Stefan Zweig”, ART TIMES, February 2014
THE EGYPTIAN MAN, Barn Collections Press, Iowa City, Iowa, 1988. (A limited edition, large format. livre d’artiste (with etchings by Alan Weinstein.)
NO PEACE AT VERSAILLES, New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1991. Second printing, 1992. (Winner of the 1989 Minnesota Voices Project in Short Fiction.)
LOSERS AND KEEPERS IN ARGENTINA, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2001.
PRINTMAKER’S DAUGHTER, PAINTER’S WIFE, Guernica World Editions, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 2022