READ & RIOT by Nadya Tolokonnikova


A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism
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A raucous fusion of memoir and action guide by a founding member of Vladimir Putin’s least favorite band, Pussy Riot.

In her debut, Tolokonnikova writes with an uncompromising mixture of fervor and humor, reflecting on her own hardscrabble life and the artistic development of her beloved band of provocateurs, who gained notoriety for critiques of post-communist Russia’s descent into an authoritarian oligarchy, culminating in the band’s 2012 prison sentence. As musician Kim Gordon says in her afterword, the book “is serious but has the playful feel of a Mission Impossible show.” Still, Tolokonnikova establishes high stakes, noting that “prison terms for political activists are seen as normal in public consciousness. When nightmares happen every day, people stop reacting to them.” The book has a sprawling yet regimented structure. While each chapter focuses on a precept for direct action as related to the Pussy Riot ethos—e.g., “Take Back the Joy” and “Make Your Government Shit Its Pants”—each also contains the author’s reflections on her formative experiences and readings of other thinkers and activists from whom she drew strength, especially during her unpleasant experiences as a prisoner following an unauthorized concert in the Russian Orthodox Church’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. She notes that their “punk prayer” and subsequent prosecution “exposed the brutal and cruel side of the government, but we didn’t do anything illegal. It’s not illegal to sing and say what you think.” Her stay in prison only amplified her rebellious determination, since she felt it linked her to mass incarceration and other political prisoners worldwide. In each chapter, the author urges readers to take concrete steps toward their own resistance. Though the writing can be abstruse—“we’re more than atoms, separated and frightened by TV and mutual distrust”—the book follows its own inner logic, code-switching between political idealism and gritty, sensory experience, seeding appeal for millennial readers.

A chaotic, irreverent testimonial ideal for frustrated progressives in this turbulent political moment.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-274158-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperOne
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2018


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