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A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir (edició 2015)
de Lev Golinkin (Autor)
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A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir de Lev Golinkin
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I appreciated reading Golinkin's perspective on his life as a refugee and an immigrant. I had not been aware of all of the trauma that many had suffered and continued to suffer once "resettled." I felt some parts were repeated unnecessarily and other details that I sparked my interest were not included, but this book was an eye opener. I expect it forced the author to go places he did not want to (both psychologically and physically), and that was a painful experience. ( )
Memoir of a young Lev Golinkin, Ukranian Jewish living under the Soviet regime's waning Cold War era (late 1980s). His father, an experienced & industrious engineer, his mother a respected pyschiatrist, his grandmother who barely escaped the Nazis in WWII, and his older sister Lina, studious & determined to get a good university education- all wonderfully described through the lens of 10 yr. old Lev. All of his family determine to get OUT when Gorbachev's reforms included relaxing the almost nonexistent emigration exit visa policies. By December 1989, that is exactly what they do - through the dangers of the Ukranian landscape to the Czech border to face the border/customs office (tamozhnya) and the insrutable, cruel tamozhnik - border guards known for their malicious destruction and searches of emigrants' belongings before they let them through. (Thus the crates of vodka in the title - bribes as the bus moved the emigres from Kharkov to the border).
Divided into parts, the first part gives us Lev's childhood and leaving Kharkov, and his family's enormous efforts to leave their country behind forever. Part II documents the subsequent moving from one hostel to another, ending in a village hours from Vienna, Austria, all arranged by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and HIAS, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Lev describes his family's experience with his fellow emigrants, the aid workers, & most especially the somewhat mysterious Austrian baron Peter, who routinely shows up at their refugee hotel & haggles with Russian emigres who had the connections/forethought to smuggle out expensive or impressive collectibles from the closed Soviet Union. Wonderful use of dialogue, description, & rich in emotional range: sometimes ludricous events told with wry humor, sometimes Lev's achingly miserable memories of his early years told with unflinching prose. Part III begins to shift more to the adult Lev, now finishing at Boston College, and slowly, painstakingly, coming to grips with his lifelong practice of keeping everyone at a distance, trying to forget Kharkov, their flight through Europe and their first years in the U.S. (watched over by refugee sponsors who voluteered to help the Golinkins in every way possible) including a house to live in West Lafayette, Indiana. When his father relocates them to New Jersey to accept -finally!- an engineering job- Lev is determined to forget that he is a Jew, that he was from the Soviet Union, that he had a past before New Jersey. But his inability to consider his future after school ends forces him to an existential crisis: who am I really? why do I continually "run" from deeper relationships? why was his life so empty deep down? An astute professor/advisor insists he must have a foundation - he must investigate his past- and then Lev also shares some of the meetings & discoveries he made while doing just that with the aid workers, with Peter, with others who so generously helped his family 17 years earlier.
Written in chapter format that felt like stand alone pieces -maybe originally submitted to a magazine?- this could be an excellent memoir for mature high school readers, but its back & forth in time treatment, its inclusion of political details & Jewish culture/religion, and its serious crisis point for the grown up Lev might be a challenge; also 303 pages long. Adult readers: While this played out for Lev in the era of glasnost, then through 1990s-early 2000s, the insights it affords us about what it is really like to be a refugee/emigre to America is heartrending & eye opening. A very timely book in the recent heated political climate about immigration in America.
This is the memoir of a Jewish man who left the Ukraine in the late 1980s (while it was still part of the Soviet Union) with his family, as a child, and came to the U.S. Being Jewish in the Ukraine, he was openly hated and learned to hate himself. He tells of his life there and all the government restrictions and corruption. Then in the US, he explains well the difficulties and frustrations of transitioning to a new country when everything is new, i.e., language, people, attitudes, customs. He wrote the book to come to terms with everything he went through and learn to accept himself. I liked it.
A well-written and oft humorous account by Lev Golinkin about his family's indirect emigration to the US as Soviet Jews as well as his personal struggle with identity. While the context of this story is a disintegrating Soviet Union and the Golinkin family's departure from the Ukraine, the challenges of being, processing, and supporting refugees from any land are as relevant today. The author does a great job of conveying what feels like a free fall at times, once the decision to leave is made and the bouncing around that happens before landing in a place where one can try to take root again. In forging a new identity in a new place, there's worry -- maybe more so in the young -- how much of the last place you share in new environs, lest ye be judged.
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"[A] hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family's escape from oppression."--The New York Times A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past. In the twilight of the Cold War (the late 1980s), nine-year old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family's long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past. Lev Golinkin's memoir is the vivid, darkly comic, and poignant story of a young boy in the confusing and often chilling final decade of the Soviet Union. It's also the story of Lev Golinkin, the American man who finally confronts his buried past by returning to Austria and Eastern Europe to track down the strangers who made his escape possible . . . and say thank you. Written with biting, acerbic wit and emotional honesty in the vein of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer, and David Bezmozgis, Golinkin's search for personal identity set against the relentless currents of history is more than a memoir--it's a portrait of a lost era. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat--and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)947.004924092 — History and Geography Europe Russia and eastern Europe [and formerly Finland] Russian & Slavic History by Period Russia Ethnic minorities Jews
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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