Cover Image: I Named My Dog Pushkin (And Other Immigrant Tales)

I Named My Dog Pushkin (And Other Immigrant Tales)

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Member Reviews

“This is what in English you’d call “being stuck between a rock and a hard place” and in Russian we call “nothing that can’t be fixed because we’re used to shit like this”.”

This novel is about a young woman's experience leaving the USSR and making a new life for herself, her parents and grandfather in the US in the early 90s. It's a fun and relatable experience for those of us who had family behind the Iron Curtain at the time, with typical phrases, meals and cultural experiences that were similar across the board. I thought the book was laugh-out-loud funny and I enjoyed reading it. I recommended to the aforementioned family members and anyone else with an interest in recent, infrequently talked about historical experiences and moments in time.
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This is a series of essays by the author on her childhood, her emigration (read: escape) from Communist USSR in the early 90s, her immigration journey to the States and her life as a Russian Jew in America. 

After a promising start with some laugh out loud moments, this book unfortunately petered out and became a little tedious. There are some fascinating and grim insights into life in the Soviet Union in the 80s/90s, but the book is overly repetitive and has far too many footnotes. It could do with a good edit to reduce it down by 100 or so pages. It has the potential to be really sharp with a bit of fine tuning.
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I had high hopes for this as it is not a premise I have ever come across (told in a funny way) and I am very much interested in the topic of people needing to leave USSR and start their lives again in a foreign country, all with the culture class and change of well.. everything.

Unfortunately, although this started in quite a promising way, it quickly became repetitive making me unable to fully finish it as I was no longer interested in reading the same (or similar jokes). Although a short book to begin with, it could have been shorter even and have the reader (me) hooked till the end instead of overplaying what we have visited a couple of times already.
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Funny, often surprisingly educational and intelligent essays around the experience of being a Soviet immigrant. The material can wear a bit thin, but Silver is an excellent guide to the strange mix of Soviet culture with American and conveys that experience very meaningfully and amusingly.
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I am not Jewish and I am not Russian, but I hail from a former Communist country, under Russia's influence for decades, and so many of Margarita's experiences felt very close to home. Yes, I know exactly how it is to queue for hours for bread or eggs for them to finish right when you are finally 3rd in line if not next to be served. Therefore you won't ever see me queuing for Apple products or any other unnecessary items ;)

Despite being so familiar with "the plot" for lack of a better word, I absolutely loved reading this memoir. I suspect it is due to Margarita's voice. I totally loved her humour, her self deprecating tone, even her bitterness that I am so familiar with. Her fears were my fears, her progress has been my progress, her "eureka" moments have been equally shared by myself and many others coming from a communist country. Thank you, Margarita for sharing your journey with us!
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This was a great read. As an immigrant I found a lot of this very relatable and comforting. I would like more people to read this to help the country understand who we really are, which is never what the red tops tell you.
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I really enjoyed the author’s stories of her time in Russia, what it was like to leave & how her experience was immigrating. What sticks with me is her descriptions! I could picture her leaving her family home and the way they left it as if they’d be returning. 

I enjoyed her conversational writing and found it to be an easy read. 

Thank you to the author, Netgalley & Thread Books for the opportunity to read this book!
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A hilarious quick read - really resonated with me as I am an immigrant myself, despite having a very different background than the author. Also provides a really great and informative context for Soviet history and the fallout of the Cold War.
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As I started reading the book, initially I found the book amusing, engaging and humorous. And guess what you have Trump jokes! The combination of a conservative family of Jewish and a rebelling 20-year old, set on immigration to an unfamiliar land was a unique concept for me.

After reading more than half of the book, I felt that book started getting repetitive and was not so funny anymore. At many places, I felt either the essays were unnecessary, dragged a lot, underdeveloped or rushed.

Overall this book was enjoyable, thought-provoking and hilarious!

Read the full review at my blog!
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𝙍𝙀𝙑𝙄𝙀𝙒

I NAMED MY DOG PUSHKIN (and other immigrant tales) 
Author: Margarita Gokun Silver

pub date: 29 July 2021
#gifted by @netgalley in exchange for an honest review 

⚠️ CW: antisemitism, racial slurs, misoginy, miscarriage, cancer 

𝙎𝙔𝙉𝙊𝙋𝙎𝙄𝙎:
"Buy a pair of Levi’s, lose the Russian accent, and turn yourself into an American. Really, how difficult could it be?

When she and her family arrived in the US, Margarita had a clearly defined objective – become fully American as soon as possible, and leave her Soviet past behind. But she soon learned that finding her new voice was harder than escaping the Soviet secret police."

𝙈𝙔 𝙊𝙋𝙄𝙉𝙄𝙊𝙉
Described as "witty and acerbic", this collection of essays/memoir contains, in fluid and very humorous writing, the story of the life of Margarita Gokun Silver, from when she was a Jewish child and then teenager growing up with her family in communist USSR in the 80s, until now, when she has her own daughter and husband and lives with them in Europe. 

This is a book about Russian and Jewish history, culture, religion, identity, womanhood, about realizing what matters the most to you and sticking with it. About how Margarita tried to avoid anything that was part of her identity as a Soviet-Jewish woman but in the end realized that the things she really needed to get rid of were negative feelings such as envy, jealousy, disappointment or being overly judgmental.

As a white woman who never traveled abroad I have no experience on immigration of any kind, or on pretty much any of the other things the author discusses in this book but I do understand wanting to be anything as what I was born as or live in any place but the one I grew up in, away from the people that surrounded me but made no effort to understand me, the real me (according to my standards anyway). That part, for me, can be universal and relatable to many of us. 

Some of the essays felt a bit long, but I still enjoyed reading this book. It amused me and gave me perspective and information on things I knew nothing about. 

#INamedMyDogPushkinAndOtherImmigrantTales #NetGalley
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As I started this book, I found the writer’s style engaging and amusing but as it progressed I started to wonder “what’s the point?”  The format of short essays allows the author to jump from topic to topic as she chooses but I felt that it lacked an overarching focus. 

That being said, her stories were generally unflinching, whether that was in recounting the hilarity of a situation or the sadness.  

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Gokun Silver's candid humor details her journey to the United States from Russia. Told in journal outline and short essay formats, Gokun Silver embraces America with wit and enthusiasm, but it's her USSR backstory that is impossible to resist. Themes of babushkas, consumerism, generations, expectations, assimilation, discrimination and anti-Semitism are throughout, as is the political climate of that time period. And her historical context is spot on. For anyone interested in the experience of those immigrating West from the Soviet Union circa 1989, you have found a real keeper
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Thank you to the author, Thread Books and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This collection of essays is a candid look at the immigrant experience - a lot of it is hilarious, but sometimes with a  very dark edge. Yes, much of it is very specific to a certain era of Soviet-US relations. At the same time, having immigrated to the US as a child myself (but not from the Soviet Union), there was a lot I could deeply relate to. I loved the expressive writing style, as though it was a chat between friends, with interjections and explanations given as the story progresses. Although I'm not particularly fond of footnotes, this book made good use of them.
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This was an entertaining book to read, having grown up in a post-soviet society. The references were humorous — I read out some of them to my mother, who had a very similar upbringing at the same period as the author, and she found them relatable as well. That being said, the humour felt a little /too much/ at times, some jokes felt forces solely for the sake of making this or that passage funny. Some essays dragged more than others, the timeline was difficult to track towards the middle and the book started to feel a little too long.  The ending of "Great Expectations, the Beginning" felt rushed and underdeveloped. "Sex and the Soviet Union" had an issue that I felt persisted in a few other essays – while the analysis and insights in the middle were interesting and insightful, the airport story surrounding it was kind of pointless. "Old habits die hard" honestly dragged a whole star down for me, if I wanted to read about the misery of heterosexual marriages I'd just read one of the gossipy news portals in my country. "Letters to my American daughter" was a touching final act and Silver's sincerity in discussing her self-identity as an emigré was a lovely wrap up to this collection.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, fast-paced read, though it might be a bit more difficult for a Western audience to understand. Some of the essays are gems and Silver's sense of humour is delightful. Unfortunately, similar to the structure of a few essays, the first half of the book is its absolute strong point and it's a shame the quality is not maintained throughout.

And seriously, what the hell is wrong with tomatoes in the West?
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Though I am 13 years the author’s junior and only have a child’s memory of growing up in USSR before Ukraine’s independence, her descriptions of family life, stories and experiences resonated hugely with me. My birth certificate also reads Jewish and my family celebrated and desired life in much the same way as her family did. It honestly felt delightful to drop into the Russian/Ukrainian/Jewish life again, something that sadly isn’t much part of my life these days,
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Felt this book in parts was a laugh out loud memoir of a Russian woman moving to the states late 1980's from the former soviet union and her essays about life marriage her daughter and her family and her experiences and she explains her life beforehand.
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I loved this book initially. I thought the "voice" was very engaging and found the way it was written absolutely hilarious. But then it started to feel a bit repetitive and I wasn't sure what I was really reading it for if that makes sense - other than having been kindly given a free copy in exchange for a review. i also found it jumped about a bit chronologically and I found that off-putting.
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I think that this is a very engaging essay collection from a Russian immigrant. I have a Q&A set to come out with this author by the end of this month.
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Gokun Silver's collection of essays <i>I Named My Dog Pushkin (and Other Immigrant Tales)</i> is a funny yet dark recollection of her family's experience leaving the USSR for the United States (by way of Italy) during the late 1980s. One of the things that I think makes Gokun Silver's point of view in her essays is unique is that she was 20 when her family left the USSR, so her essays feature really vivid accounts of what it was like growing up during a time of open anti-Semitism in the USSR and the experience of being an adult immigrant leaving a country behind for a new one. I think this makes the collection stand out a bit from others I've read because neither experience is romanticized.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC of this book.
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I love this new book from @margarita. This intercultural memoir is both an extremely humorous memoir about living an international life, and an unflinching glimpse into (as expected, with a global life) the never-ending process of cultural adjustment.

A memoir like this is so very rare, one in which you learn a great deal, while laughing throughout.  

Highly, highly recommended.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Gokun Silver, and ask her about the book, sense of home, humor, moving abroad, and more. Click here for our author interview:https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/best-funny-global-read-named-dog-pushkin
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