Adventures in Russia over three trips in 20 years.
In 1995, Los Angeles–based ghostwriter Dickey ventured to Russia in her late 20s in order to perfect her Russian and ply her trade as a writer. A fortuitous advertisement and encounter with American photojournalist Gary Matoso resulted in a three-month trek from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg, where Dickey was based, meeting people in the Russian hinterlands and chronicling personal stories along the way. After her initial trip resulted in a blog, the author returned in 2005 to track down many of the same people the journalist duo had met in 1995. Finally, in 2015, Dickey returned alone to write this spirited account of regular Russians living in a vastly changed landscape from her 1995 visit. Moving back and forth to compare her earlier trips, Dickey witnessed the rise of tourism, once virtually unheard of; the flourishing of the once-vilified Jewish community in Birobidzhan despite the fact that many of the Jewish people she first met in 1995 had left; the rise of small entrepreneurs struggling in the wake of the “ruble krizis” such as in Chita, in eastern Siberia; the Buryat farmers of Galtai, who still slaughter sheep in the manner of Genghis Khan; the environmental damages to the magnificent freshwater Lake Baikal; the underground gay scene in Novosibirsk; and the travails of a Moscow rap star, among other stories. Now in middle age and married to a woman in LA, Dickey had to come out to many of her Russian acquaintances unfamiliar with lesbianism, and she dreaded their disapproval. However, despite the general anti-Western sentiment she endured—President Barack Obama was considered untrustworthy, while Ukraine was claimed as Russian—the author presents nuanced portraits.
An affecting travelogue that reveals true Russian personality.