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

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

by

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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? Alex Halberstadt's memoir answers that question by posing another right at the beginning: can trauma can be passed to desce...

  • Nathan Albright

    This is not a very good memoir, nor is the author nearly insightful enough to provide reckoning about anything. There is a great gulf between what this book promises and what it ends up providing, and...

  • Rennie

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway (only time I've ever won!) and it was beautifully written and very moving. The author looks back on his family lineage, through Russia and Lithuania and the Soviet e...

  • 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 ...

  • bmo211

    Part 1 (about his grandfather) was riveting. I feel like the book as a whole, though, ends up reading like a series of overly long essays that should have been properly edited and published as much sm...

  • Kinga

    I am fascinated by the Soviet Union and the lives people led under its regime. So many of these lives remind me of my childhood, dominated by the Communist dogma and empty shops. Alex Halberstadt exam...

  • timv

    A unique and interesting read that is part memoir & reconciliation, travelogue, and Lithuanian/Russian history as told through the authors’s family tree which consists of Jews on one side and a form...

  • Lauren Goodwillie

    A really interesting look at how the macro events of history affect personal lives and families through the author's family history (4.5)...