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

Silver wrote an amusing compilation of essays about moving to the US from the USSR in 1989. I was fascinated by her experiences and the limited family history she shared. I’ve been fascinated with Russia since high school. I enjoyed her snippets and flashbacks of life in the Soviet Union. I laughed when she described babushkas because there is one in every single museum room in Russia, and there’s a lot of rooms. One yelled at me when I visited Russia in 2018. I also laughed at her assertion that having a Russian accent sounded villainous. She has a great sense of humor, acerbic wit, and a wonderful collection of tales.
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Pretty entertaining overall, but a bit slow at times. I enjoyed the story of the process of immigrating and the bits and pieces about assimilation, though there were other sections that I personally didn’t feel added much to the story. As a whole I still enjoyed it.
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I was born in the Soviet Union. I disagree with many things. But I liked the book anyway. The author writes with humor and the book is easy to read. Reading the book, I wanted to delve into the issue of emigration. I asked my friends about this problem. Everyone had different opinions, Someone agreed with the agreed with the author, someone on the contrary was disenchanted,  but I think the book will not leave anyone indifferent. And I was upset that the author called her dog Pushkin.
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I was a young kid when the USSR desolved. The only thing about it I recall from my childhood is having an outdated globe in elementary school because it still had the USSR on it. This memoir is written as a collection of essays and was really illuminating to me. I had no idea Levi's were so popular with the Soviets. This was a great glimpse into a regular working family in Moscow and their immigration to the US. The only negative are the numerous footnotes. They are distracting and maybe about 1/3 of them are actually necessary. 

Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone that enjoys memoirs and anyone interested in the Soviet experience.
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This book wasn’t quite what I expected however I really enjoyed it.  I actually think I might have had more fun reading it than I thought I would. It was funny and informative and because of this  a really quick read. I can’t wait to get a physical copy of this book for my bookshelf.
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Buy a pair of Levi’s, lose the Russian accent, and turn yourself into an American. Really, how difficult could it be?

Fake an exit visa, fool the Soviet authorities, pack enough sausage to last through immigration, buy a one-way Aeroflot ticket, and the rest will sort itself out. That was the gist of every Soviet-Jewish immigrant’s plan in the 1980s, Margarita’s included. Despite her father's protestations that they'd get caught and thrown into a gulag, she convinced her family to follow that plan. 

When they 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.

She finds herself changing her name to fit in, disappointing her parents who expect her to become a doctor, a lawyer, an investment banker and a classical pianist – all at the same time, learning to date without hang-ups (there is no sex in the Soviet Union), parenting her own daughter ‘while too Russian’, and not being able to let go of old habits (never, ever throw anything away because you might use it again). Most importantly, she finds that no matter how hard you try not to become your parents, you end up just like them anyway.

Witty, sharp and unflinching, I Named My Dog Pushkin will have fans of Samantha Irby and Jenny Lawson howling with laughter at Margarita’s catastrophes, her victories and her near misses as she learns to grow as both a woman and an immigrant in a world that often doesn’t appreciate either. A fascinating read which I recommend.
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From the cover it appears to resemble essays collections from the likes of Samantha Irby and Jenny Lawson., both of which I have absolutely adored recently . So I rushed to request this advance copy of title from publishers. Unfortunately aside from the cover art style this does not resemble their works in any way.

To start with this book is just not funny. Perhaps something was lost in translation due to the authors heritage and I wonder if this is just the Russian sense of humour that I am just not familiar with . I quickly found myself painstakingly combing the text trying to find where the humour was in case it was just not my personal taste but could not even find  any noticeable attempt.

Then I tried to just read the book as a straight forward memoir and imagined it to at least provide me with insight regarding the experience of  author as a person emigrating from Russia to the United States. However this was also not provided in the prose which was dry , flat and often difficult to follow. There was too much use of the Russian language and an assumption that reader was familiar with Russia and its culture along with lengthy criticisms of her husband and family, Far too much time was spent telling us about what things were like in Russia and not enough time sharing discovery of America and its culture to the reader . The author tending to ramble with no clear theme or structure and while reading I could not see the point of the endless lists the author seemed to have an obsession with including.

I had high hopes for this book from its marketing as a comic memoir and feel like this could have been done so much better,
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thread books for my copy of I Named My Dog Pushkin (And Other Immigrant Tales) by Margarita Gokun Silver in exchange for an honest review. It publishes July 29, 2021.
I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, I felt like the author did a great job of teaching about the USSR and the history of it along with growing up there, and blending humor within. 
I found the immigration story to be very interesting and was glad the experience was shared. For the most part I enjoyed the rest of the book, I just got sick of all the political stuff. I know that appeals to many, but for me it left a sour taste in my mouth.
So if you like to laugh, are interested in immigration stories, and aren't put off by political things sprinkled without the book, then you'll enjoy this.
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“In the Soviet Union no one paid for heating because Communist elves made sure it was always there and free”.

Margarita delivers a sharp, witty memoir through a variety of mid-length essays about her family’s emigration and immersion process from the USSR to the USA through a non-linear timeline. She comedically retells their journey to Italy on forged papers, bad luck and potential jinxes superstitiously attributed to her actions.

The memoir was bittersweet, underlined by a clear theme of Antisemitism. We learn how ethnicity overrode nationality in the USSR and Gorbachev directly fuelled hatred with discriminatory policies, forcing Margarita - once aware she was Jewish- to hide it. In my favourite essay, she pens a beautiful letter to her daughter, Eliana, shocked that similar challenges exist 30 years on in the USA, but proud that her daughter speaks out against classmates who ‘hail Hitler’ and ’tell her to go to the gas chambers’. Margarita captured Jewish joy and grief together perfectly in one short memoir, for which I am grateful.

Margarita presents her version of history through the use of dark humour, admitting repressed bitterness at times and giving full transparency when something was in fact a ‘cultural norm’ and unlikely to be in the history books. The story doesn’t have a clear plot, instead delivering a very open, well-rounded series of events, ranging from lists of recipes to rants about her husbands untidy habits. She offers up her own form of ‘seize the day’ advice, both in the essay “the-should-have-done-it bucket list’ but also throughout her entire journey, where she repeatedly capitalises on her stubbornness to reach her goals and overcome repeated hardships.

The book takes us through the highs and lows of navigating immigration and religion, as well as a list of delicious sounding hors d'oeuvres. For me, its 5/5 ⭐️

Thank you NetGalley for the Arc in return for a fair review. This gem will be published on the 29th July!
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What a delightful book. If you grew up in the 80s, like I did,, you probably remember all the news about the USSR, which usually meant Russia. Margarita gives us good look behind the "Iron Curtain", that alternates between serious, funny and sweet. We learn what it' was like to grow up in Russia as a Jewish person and dealing with antisemitism during the 80s. We also get a taste of having Russian parents with very strong opinions and the huge responsibility of being a Babushka. In such a fun & interesting way. If you enjoy films like Moscow on the Hudson and White Nights, this is the book for you! Same for those who have an interest in Russia and/or communism.
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An entertaining book about the Russian immigrant experience in the US. A welcome addition to this genre from a female perspective.
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Margarita Gokun Silver details her journey from Soviet Russia to the land of capitalism, AKA America, where one can buy precious Levis and not study thermodynamic engineering just because it's what your father studied. Gokun Silver treats her journey with humor and an eye for cultural details. With little knowledge of Soviet Russia and the situation of the Russian Jewish community, I found it to be an engaging read. For instance, the fact that Soviet passports listed Jews not as Russians, but as Jews was an eye-opener for me. Many of the stories Gokun Silver shares about her parents acclimating to American life will ring true to any first or second-generation immigrant family. Definitely worth a read!
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This is a darkly funny collection of personal essays from a Russian émigré, reminiscent of other acerbic comedian authors like Sara Barron ('The Harm in Asking'). It was fascinating in itself to read about Silver's experiences, not just as a Russian but a Jewish Russian, and having to grapple with that part of her identity in the U.S.

The book is surprisingly hard-edged (even more so than you'd expect from the blurb), and a few of the pieces were more stressful than funny to read, and I think overall it could've been edited down a little. However, I was entertained for most of it!

(With thanks to Thread Books and NetGalley for this ebook in exchange for an honest review)
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