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Shush! Growing Up Jewish Under Stalin: A Memoir

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Shush! Growing Up Jewish Under Stalin: A Memoir Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Emil Draitser is authentic and honestly self-critical, while also full of humor and warmth. Shush! is a great tribute to the tenacity of a people who kept their identity and loyalty intact even when threatened with dire consequences."—Irena Grudzinska Gross, author of The Scar of Revolution

"A wonderfully evocative memoir of childhood and adolescence during one of the most tragic epochs in Russian history. As grim as the historical background of the memoir is, the mood is redeemed by Draitser's perfectly Odessan Jewish humor, sad yet optimistic, compared with that of another great Odessan, Isaak Babel."—Lara Vapnyar, author of There are Jews in My House and Memoirs of a Muse

"Emil Draitser resurrects the world of his Jewish childhood in the Soviet Union touchingly and with a great sense of humor, a truly rare quality."—Solomon Volkov, author of Shostakovich and Stalin and The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn

"Emil Draitser's memoir tells me, adroitly and movingly, more about being a child in Stalin's Russia than all the fiction and nonfiction I had read before put together. His work has worldwide appeal."—David Westheimer, author of Von Ryan's Express and Death is Lighter than a Feather

"A poignant and gripping book. . . . A compelling memoir. . . . A sweeping panorama of the Jewish history in Russia, this richly documented work is a remarkable humanitarian contribution and a challenge to the continued silence in Russia surrounding its persecution of Jews. The volume touches a nerve and is written with a depth of feeling. The reader will appreciate the skilled craftsmanship that elevates Draitser's perfect gem of a memoir to fine literature."—Notes on Contemporary Literature

"Vivid and engaging. . . .The most moving episodes are concerned with Draitser's coming to terms with his Jewish identity. . . . Elegantly and warmly written, this volume will be of interest to scholars exploring Jewish life in the Soviet period. . . . Despite the dramatic nature of the material, the stories are told with humor. A welcome addition to curricula in Russian culture, as well as for Jewish studies, sociology, history, and psychology."—Slavic and East European Journal

"Rich in minute observations, psychological insights, and vivid descriptions."—World Literature Today

“An intimate account of an extraordinarily difficult period in Jewish history, written with such erudition, elegance, texture, and humor. This immensely enjoyable book makes a consequential — and little understood — era come alive through the prism of the authors personal experience and enviable writing style. One can only hope that this book will receive the large audience it so richly deserves.” --David A. Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

Review:

"Hunter College Russian professor Draitser recalls a post-WWII Odessa youth blighted by a pernicious and pervasive anti-Semitism that made him ashamed of being Jewish — so ashamed that decades after arriving in America, he still whispered references to things Jewish. A bewildered and reluctant observer of the rise of Russian chauvinism as the Cold War erupted, Draitser remembers how gangs of youngsters hunted Holocaust survivor children and permanently maimed his seven-year-old cousin; the discovery of his beloved Pushkin's hateful characterizations of Jews left him confused and disgusted with himself. He recalls the clouds of suspicion surrounding his mother's friend, a pediatrician, when Jewish doctors were targeted with trumped-up charges of sabotage in the 1950s 'Doctors' Plot.' His parents' yearning to connect to their heritage is movingly portrayed: Draitser's father saved the peel from an Israeli orange, and his mother traveled to the boonies to surreptitiously purchase Passover matzos. This painful and acutely observed memoir will resonate with many readers; unfortunately, it ends with Stalin's death. How Draitser and his parents made their way to America and how they fared here are unexplored. 22 b&w photos. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Many years after making his way to America from Odessa in Soviet Ukraine, Emil Draitser made a startling discovery: every time he uttered the word "Jewish"—even in casual conversation—he lowered his voice. This behavior was a natural by-product, he realized, of growing up in the anti-Semitic, post-Holocaust Soviet Union, when "Shush!" was the most frequent word he heard: "Don't use your Jewish name in public. Don't speak a word of Yiddish. And don't cry over your murdered relatives." This compelling memoir conveys the reader back to Draitser's childhood and provides a unique account of midtwentieth-century life in Russia as the young Draitser struggles to reconcile the harsh values of Soviet society with the values of his working-class Jewish family. Lively, evocative, and rich with humor, this unforgettable story ends with the death of Stalin and, through life stories of the author's ancestors, presents a sweeping panorama of two centuries of Jewish history in Russia.

About the Author

Emil Draitser is Professor of Russian at Hunter College of the City University of New York. In addition to his twelve books, his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Partisan Review and the North American Review.

Table of Contents

acknowledgments

notes on languages and translation

prologue

part one

1 How I Failed My Motherland

2 Fathers at War

3 Path to Paradise

4 Whats in a Name!

5 Black Shawl

6 Us Against Them

7 I Dont Want to Have Relatives!

8 Friends and Enemies

9 The Girl of My Dreams

10 How They Laugh in Odessa

part two

11 Papa and the Soviets

12 A Dependent

13 Without Declarations

14 Whos Who

15 A Strange Orange

16 Who Are You?

17 One Passover in Odessa

part three

18 On Commissars, Cosmopolites, and Lightbulb Inventors

19 Them!

20 No Kith, No Kin

21 Grandpa Uri

22 Missing Mikhoels

23 Black on White

24 Time Like Glass

25 The Death of Stalin

Epilogue

My Genealogical Tree

Product Details

ISBN:
9780520254466
Author:
Draitser, Emil
Publisher:
University of California Press
Subject:
Jews
Subject:
Ukraine
Subject:
General
Subject:
Europe - General
Subject:
Jewish studies
Subject:
Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
Draitser, Emil - Childhood and youth
Subject:
Jews - Ukraine - Odesa
Subject:
Biography-Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20080931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
22 b/w photographs, 1 line illustration
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.88 in 1.05 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Jewish Studies
History and Social Science » World History » General
Religion » Judaism » History

Shush! Growing Up Jewish Under Stalin: A Memoir New Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages University of California Press - English 9780520254466 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Hunter College Russian professor Draitser recalls a post-WWII Odessa youth blighted by a pernicious and pervasive anti-Semitism that made him ashamed of being Jewish — so ashamed that decades after arriving in America, he still whispered references to things Jewish. A bewildered and reluctant observer of the rise of Russian chauvinism as the Cold War erupted, Draitser remembers how gangs of youngsters hunted Holocaust survivor children and permanently maimed his seven-year-old cousin; the discovery of his beloved Pushkin's hateful characterizations of Jews left him confused and disgusted with himself. He recalls the clouds of suspicion surrounding his mother's friend, a pediatrician, when Jewish doctors were targeted with trumped-up charges of sabotage in the 1950s 'Doctors' Plot.' His parents' yearning to connect to their heritage is movingly portrayed: Draitser's father saved the peel from an Israeli orange, and his mother traveled to the boonies to surreptitiously purchase Passover matzos. This painful and acutely observed memoir will resonate with many readers; unfortunately, it ends with Stalin's death. How Draitser and his parents made their way to America and how they fared here are unexplored. 22 b&w photos. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
Many years after making his way to America from Odessa in Soviet Ukraine, Emil Draitser made a startling discovery: every time he uttered the word "Jewish"—even in casual conversation—he lowered his voice. This behavior was a natural by-product, he realized, of growing up in the anti-Semitic, post-Holocaust Soviet Union, when "Shush!" was the most frequent word he heard: "Don't use your Jewish name in public. Don't speak a word of Yiddish. And don't cry over your murdered relatives." This compelling memoir conveys the reader back to Draitser's childhood and provides a unique account of midtwentieth-century life in Russia as the young Draitser struggles to reconcile the harsh values of Soviet society with the values of his working-class Jewish family. Lively, evocative, and rich with humor, this unforgettable story ends with the death of Stalin and, through life stories of the author's ancestors, presents a sweeping panorama of two centuries of Jewish history in Russia.
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