Voices of the Second World War’s Children, Curated by Svetlana Alexievich

Book review: Last Witnesses, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) These pictures, these lights. My riches. The treasure of what I lived through… Last Witnesses is the latest work from incomparable Belarusian journalist and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich to be translated from Russian to English. In the vein of her other books, this oral history collects stories told from one of Russia’s immense twentieth … Continue reading Voices of the Second World War’s Children, Curated by Svetlana Alexievich

A Year Abroad As the Soviet Union Was Falling

Book review: Black Earth City, by Charlotte Hobson (Amazon / Book Depository) ‘You must understand,’ said Rita Yurievna, ‘that in Russian, verbs are not only about action. They are also about the experience. Think how different it feels if you walk down a street every morning of your life, and if you walk down it for the first and only time. It maybe be the … Continue reading A Year Abroad As the Soviet Union Was Falling

Disaster and After: A Chernobyl Deep Dive

Book review: Midnight in Chernobyl, by Adam Higginbotham (Amazon / Book Depository) Senior Lieutenant Alexander Logachev loved radiation the way other men loved their wives. So begins Adam Higginbotham’s exhaustive account of the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster, recounting a blow-by-blow of the unfolding incident and the monumental effects of the aftermath, amidst the context of Soviet politics and the USSR’s place on the world stage. … Continue reading Disaster and After: A Chernobyl Deep Dive

Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

Book review: The Brothers, by Masha Gessen (Amazon / Book Depository) This American Life is one of my all-time favorite radio shows. But since they’re so prolific and have been around for so long, I’m always eons behind on episodes, so I tend to skip through the archives looking for something interesting. That’s how I landed on a 2014 episode, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” about an incident I’d … Continue reading Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

An Espionage Mystery in the Caucasus

Book review: The Spy Who Was Left Behind, by Michael Pullara (Amazon / Book Depository) Lawyer Michael Pullara was bothered by the official narrative of the 1993 murder of Freddie Woodruff, a CIA agent and diplomat working as station chief in Tbilisi, Georgia at the time of his death. Pullara spent ten years investigating and researching the incident and its myriad oddities; The Spy Who Was … Continue reading An Espionage Mystery in the Caucasus

Nonfiction November Week 3: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

Week 3: (Nov. 12 to 16) – (Julie @ JulzReads): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own … Continue reading Nonfiction November Week 3: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

The Spookiest Soviet Unsolved Mystery

Book review: Mountain of the Dead, by Keith McCloskey Book Depository What is this trouble that wanders the Taiga at night? Who can give an answer? If you don’t already know the story of the Dyatlov pass incident, I envy you, because the Google rabbit hole you’re about to fall down is a marvelous one. But to tip-of-the-iceberg this high strangeness story from Soviet Russia: … Continue reading The Spookiest Soviet Unsolved Mystery

Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

Book review: Journey into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg I opened the door briskly, with the boldness of despair. If you are to jump over a cliff, better take a run at it and not pause on the brink to look back at the lovely world you are leaving behind. Eugenia Ginzburg’s memoir of her arrest in 1937 on charges that eventually became “terrorism” … Continue reading Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Book review: Stalin’s Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan (Amazon / Book Depository) “What would it mean to be born Stalin’s daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it?” “I want to explain to you, he broke my life.” Even writing a biography showing the many sides of Svetlana Alliluyeva often ignored by media, multiple governments, and history, … Continue reading Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Book review: For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors, by Laura Esther Wolfson (Amazon / Book Depository) Laura Esther Wolfson’s essay collection, the Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction winner, is composed of dreamy, reflectional, sometimes confessional pieces of memoir. An interpreter and translator by profession, the idea of translation and the role of language in life, love, questions of identity, relationships, and everyday interpersonal interactions … Continue reading Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

Book review: Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) Sometimes it’s as though I hear his voice. Alive. Even photographs don’t have the same effect on me as that voice. But he never calls out to me . . . not even in my dreams. I’m the one who calls to him. After reading Svetlana Alexievich’s incredible Unwomanly Face of War, I couldn’t … Continue reading Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

What Do Bears and the People of Former Communist Countries Have in Common?

Book review: Dancing Bears: True Stories About Longing for the Old Days, by Witold Szabłowski Amazon / Book Depository   Another version of this book, newly published in its first English translation, has the subtitle “True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny”. That sums up perfectly what it’s about – stories about how and seemingly why humans and trained bears can’t seem to break the … Continue reading What Do Bears and the People of Former Communist Countries Have in Common?