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

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:
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"Jewish citizens of the USSR were not Russian, would never be allowed to be Russian, and would be laughed at if they showed up at a passport office and asked to be recorded as Russian."

I was drawn to this book because I share a similar background to the author. Like Silver, my family also immigrated from Russia (albeit at a later date, in 1998, when the immigration process was markedly different). Though I was seven years old at the time, I remember the experience in bits and pieces - marked by confusion, a sense of disorientation, the anxiety that came with having to learn an entirely new language and assimilate to a foreign culture. Like Silver's family, my family came to the United States in anticipation of better opportunities and acceptance. The quote above rings true for me as well: my grandmother's passport papers are marked with "Jewess" rather than "Russian," though Russia is the land of her birth.

For these reasons, though Silver's narrative is full of humor and funny anecdotes, it was also a bittersweet reading experience for me. As I read, I could not help but think of my own family's experiences, as well as the trials and trepidations faced by millions of ex-Soviets seeking a new beginning. I appreciated the author's candidness and optimism throughout her memoir. I came away with the thought that, even in situations of hardship, there is always opportunity for humor and lightheartedness.
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What I liked

I thought this was a great look into the life of immigrants from the former USSR to the US in decades gone by. The author illustrates a lot of aspects of her life for us and is always careful to ground you with a sense of what time period she's discussing. The essays also weren't dull, they were definitely written with some style.

What I didn't like

The sense of humour of the author just didn't match up with mine. There were passages I read out loud to my boyfriend and he thought they were hilarious, so I am willing to accept this might just be a matter of personal preference. However, there were some parts that were clearly *supposed* to be funny that I just didn't find myself laughing at.


This wasn't a difficult read and is certainly worth it for someone interested in the subject matter. However, if you're looking for a laugh, maybe download a sample first to see if the style of humour is for you.
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I really enjoyed this book; it's a compelling read that is cleverly written and is very entertaining.As a brit, this book was engaging and informative.  I learned a lot about life in the Soviet Union, as well as enjoying the author's witty take on many americanisms too.  The writing is easy to follow and understand - although there are. a lot of footnotes, these do add relevant details!- and I think I'd like to go for Coffee with Gokun Silver! 

Whilst it's a very specific journey she undertook, there are many common themes that anyone who has a been a teenager will find easy to relate to. Battles with your mother, battles with prejudice, battles with yourself... they're wittily reflected upon in this series of 'essays'.
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I may be slightly biased because I’m married to a Russian immigrant, but I loved this book. Margarita’s series of essays chronicling her experience coming to the US from the Soviet Union are at once thoughtful, humorous, and at times even a bit heartbreaking. This hit very close to home for me, as I have seen first hand the ways in which a Soviet upbringing can affect day to day life, even decades later. Margarita’s expressive writing made this an easy and entertaining read, and gives readers some (mostly) light-hearted insight into what it was like for those that broke through the Iron Curtain.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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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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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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