A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir

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"[A] hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family’s escape from oppression."--The New York Times

A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past. In the twilight of the Cold War (the late 1980s), nine-year old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family's long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past.


Lev Golinkin's memoir is the vivid, darkly comic, and poignant story of a young boy in the confusing and often chilling final decade of the Soviet Union. It's also the story of Lev Golinkin, the American man who finally confronts his buried past by returning to Austria and Eastern Europe to track down the strangers who made his escape possible . . . and say thank you. Written with biting, acerbic wit and emotional honesty in the vein of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer, and David Bezmozgis, Golinkin's search for personal identity set against the relentless currents of history is more than a memoir—it's a portrait of a lost era. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat—and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Lev Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka.  Mr. Golinkin, a graduate of Boston College, came to the US as a child refugee from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov (now called Kharkiv) in 1990.  His op-eds and essays on the Ukraine crisis have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and Time.com, among others; he has been interviewed by WSJ Live and HuffPost Live.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Reviews

4.6
8 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Anchor
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Published on
Nov 4, 2014
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780385537780
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Jewish
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Gary Shteyngart
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MICHIKO KAKUTANI, THE NEW YORK TIMES • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MORE THAN 45 PUBLICATIONS, INCLUDING
The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • NPR • The New Yorker • San Francisco Chronicle • The Economist • The Atlantic • Newsday • Salon • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Guardian • Esquire (UK) • GQ (UK)

Little Failure is the all too true story of an immigrant family betting its future on America, as told by a lifelong misfit who finally finds a place for himself in the world through books and words. In 1979, a little boy dragging a ginormous fur hat and an overcoat made from the skin of some Soviet woodland creature steps off the plane at New York’s JFK International Airport and into his new American life. His troubles are just beginning. For the former Igor Shteyngart, coming to the United States from the Soviet Union is like stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of Technicolor. Careening between his Soviet home life and his American aspirations, he finds himself living in two contradictory worlds, wishing for a real home in one. He becomes so strange to his parents that his mother stops bickering with his father long enough to coin the phrase failurchka—“little failure”—which she applies to her once-promising son. With affection. Mostly. From the terrors of Hebrew School to a crash course in first love to a return visit to the homeland that is no longer home, Gary Shteyngart has crafted a ruthlessly brave and funny memoir of searching for every kind of love—family, romantic, and of the self.

BONUS: This edition includes a reading group guide.

Praise for Little Failure

“Hilarious and moving . . . The army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A memoir for the ages . . . brilliant and unflinching.”—Mary Karr
 
“Dazzling . . . a rich, nuanced memoir . . . It’s an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success.”—Meg Wolitzer, NPR
 
“Literary gold . . .  [a] bruisingly funny memoir.”—Vogue
 
“A giant success.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“[Little Failure] finds the delicate balance between sidesplitting and heartbreaking.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Should become a classic of the immigrant narrative genre.”—The Miami Herald
 
“As vivid, original and funny as any that contemporary U.S. literature has to offer.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“The very best memoirs perfectly toe the line between heartbreak and humor, and Shteyngart does just that.”—Esquire
 
“Touching, insightful . . . [Shteyngart] nimbly achieves the noble Nabokovian goal of letting sentiment in without ever becoming sentimental.”—The Washington Post
 
“[Shteyngart is] a successor to no less than Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.”—The Christian Science Monitor
Robert K. Massie
“[A] tale of power, perseverance and passion . . . a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
 
“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
 
“An absorbing, satisfying biography.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Juicy and suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A great life, indeed, and irresistibly told.”—Salon
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • USA Today • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Salon • Vogue • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Providence Journal • Washington Examiner • South Florida Sun-Sentinel • BookPage • Bookreporter • Publishers Weekly

BONUS: This edition contains a Catherine the Great reader's guide.
Gerda Weissmann Klein
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