Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning

Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning

Can trauma be inherited? In this luminous memoir of identity, exile, ancestry, and reckoning, an American writer returns to Russia to face a family history that still haunts him.

It is this question that sets Alex Halberstadt off on a quest to name and acknowledge a legacy of family trauma, and to end a cycle of estrangement that had endured for nearly a century.

His search takes him across the troubled, enigmatic land of his birth. In Ukraine he tracks down his paternal grandfather--most likely the last living bodyguard of Joseph Stalin--to reckon with the ways in which decades of Soviet totalitarianism shaped and fractured three generations of his family. He returns to Lithuania, his Jewish mother's home, to revisit the legacy of the Holocaust and the pernicious anti-Semitism that remains largely unaccounted for, learning that the boundary between history and biography is often fragile and indistinct. And he visits his birthplace, Moscow, where his glamorous grandmother designed homespun couture for Soviet ministers' wives, his mother dosed dissidents at a psychiatric hospital, and his father made a living by selling black-market jazz and rock records.

Finally, Halberstadt explores his own story: that of a fatherless immigrant who arrived in America, to a housing project in Queens, New York, as a ten-year-old boy struggling with identity, feelings of rootlessness, and a yearning for home. He comes to learn that he was merely the latest in a lineage of sons who grew up alone, separated from their fathers by the tides of politics and history.

As Halberstadt revisits the sites of his family's formative traumas, he uncovers a multigenerational transmission of fear, suspicion, melancholy, and rage. And he comes to realize something more: Nations, like people, possess formative traumas that penetrate into the most private recesses of their citizens' lives.

Title:Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning
ISBN:9781400067060
Format Type:

    Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning Reviews

  • Larry

    Why would you want to read a whole book about someone else's family history? A memoir like this one answers the question by asking another right at the beginning: can trauma can be passed to descendan...

  • Ted Waterfall

    I wasn't sure how to rate this book as I wasn't sure what it was really about for a while. It starts off by describing an experiment conducted on lab mice in which a pleasant aroma was introduced at t...

  • Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Enjoy stories about the generational divide, the immigrant experience, or stories about Russia/Russians. Many thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange fo...

  • Katie

    I was really excited about this book when I read the introduction, and overall I did enjoy it, but it was not at all what I expected. The introduction, and the conclusion, both attempt to tie in huge ...

  • TL

    I won this via goodreads giveaways (thanks!) All my opinions are my own:)-----Appreciate winning and being sent the book, but just can't connect to it unfortunately....

  • Steve Bookman

    I expected an interesting perspective on the incredible days of the Stalin regime; I got this and also a tremendously diverse, vivid set accounts of so much about Russian, Soviet, and American immigra...

  • Alan Kaplan

    This is a very personal book about the family history of the author. His maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, running away at the moment that the Nazis entered their town. They are lucky ju...

  • Taunya Miller

    I received this ARC during a Goodreads giveaway. The opinions of this review are my own. In the beginning of the book, there is the results of an experiment conducted in 2013 by researchers at Emory U...

  • Karina

    This beautifully written memoir follows the authorÔÇÖs family over the past century, where they endured some of the horrifying experiences of atrocity and deprivation in Lithuania and then the USSR. H...

  • Marshall

    It is rare that I give five stars to a book, but in this case I think it is deserved. Like the best books in Russian literature, this is a family saga. One with a patriarch who asserts he was StalinÔÇ...