An affecting travelogue that reveals true Russian personality.




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.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09229-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?