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A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka MP3 CD – Audiobook, 4 Nov 2014

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MP3 CD, Audiobook, 4 Nov 2014
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Product details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; MP3 Una edition (4 Nov 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 148150696X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481506960
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.5 x 1.5 cm

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 44 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful memoir, a thank you in book form for all those who helped the author's family come to the US 25 Aug 2014
By Suzanne Amara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Within this wonderfully written memoir, there is one story that stands out most for me. A young Lev Golinkin, in Vienna, waiting to go to America, is taken to a house full of donated clothes and is allowed to pick out a winter coat for himself. He finds a bomber type jacket, with lots of zippers, to replace a fur coat that was destroyed during a terrible night at the border crossing out of the USSR. Many years later, he still remembers the moment of getting that jacket, and he seeks out the people and the organization that made that possible.

This memoir is full of moments like that. I think it should be required reading for all those thinking about immigration to America. Golinkin was born in the USSR, a place where just being Jewish led to beatings, lack of school opportunities and constant fear. Although his family knows almost nothing about their Jewish heritage, and guess at when Passover is to sneak some unleavened flour into their apartment, that doesn't matter, as a passage so strongly explains. Being Jewish is an ethnicity, not a belief. Golinkin, a young boy when the family left the USSR, already realized what was at stake. His vivid memories of the people and places that led them to their life in America are amazing to read about---heartbreaking and hopeful both.

I hope this book gets wide readership. It deserves that.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I Can't Recommend It Enough 5 Oct 2014
By Inna Tysoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an amazingly good book. And, for me, an amazingly hard book to read. The Golinkins came to the US after us (they came in the after ours--the Soviet Union closed the border when they went to war in Afghanistan) and they came from Kharkov in Ukraine whereas we are from Moscow, Russia but we all lived under the same regime. And we were all Jews.

I was a girl growing up so maybe I didn’t get beaten up for being Jewish in the same humiliating way because of that accident of gender and because we lived in Moscow we didn’t have to go so far to reach customs and we didn’t meet a benefactor in Vienna (we were processed in Rome)…but the rest… I know the rest because I lived it. And so this was hard to read.
It was like holding up a mirror to my life. Not a perfect mirror but definitely a reflection. I probably needed to see it. But it was hard.

The book though is excellent. From the minute he mentions the parades “Parades were the gold standard of the Soviet Union” he had me. I simply could not put this book down. I have work to do and a husband and puppies but I was lost in the chaos of immigrating while a refugee, of babushkas (never cross a babushka is sound advice, trust me) of bribery-by-vodka, of the fear upon which the Soviet regime is built; upon which it still rests. And of the awful things that does to a human being.

I was lost too in realizing just how many people had come together to make our escape from the Soviet Regime possible. The American Jewish Distribution Committee (Joint) that paid for us as we stayed in Vienna and Rome, the Hebrew International Aid Society (HIAS) that organized our exodus and provided the legions of volunteers, social workers, sponsors, and legal staff to ensure that we were able to go where we wanted to go and the many, many people in the United States, in Israel and the whole world who worked in all manner of ways—from signing a petition to showing up at a rally, to donating a sweater, a jacket, or sponsoring a family—the hundreds and thousands of people who for decades worked and worked and worked to ensure that my family and I could get out. So that we could have a life.

Unlike Lev Golinkin, I will never even try to thank those myriads of people. I am too settled in my life now; I am no longer a freshly-minted college graduate looking for an identity. But upon finishing this book, I made a small donation to HIAS. It was the least I could do.

I highly recommend this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Told with warmth and spirit 19 Sep 2014
By Dawn Kessinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the things I really liked about "A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka" is its balance. It's not just about the bad times or experiences. It's also about the funny, victorious, hopeful and compassionate moments. I was completely taken in by the relationship between Lev and his older sister, Lina - the clever way the two teased one another and "got even" for tricks played was full of humor and good cheer. On the other hand, I was just as riveted by Lev's family's terrifying ordeal at the border when they were trying to exit the USSR (vicious people were in control of whether his family would be locked up instead of permitted to leave the country).

The people Lev and his family meet are just as compelling as Lev and his family. The reader meets various people from charitable organizations who are committed and make a huge difference in the lives of these Jewish refugees. The way Lev introduces them and tells their stories (with warmth and affection) sparks the reader to feel deeply and appreciate these people as if we knew them ourselves. From Binder, who gladly opens up his hotel to help house and feed the refugees on their journey, to Eva, who gives away free clothing - there's a clear, unhurried picture of each person or group of people who helped along the way and their stories/kindnesses.

There is the big picture in this memoir, but also little details (Lev learning the alphabet; Lina getting a job; Lev's dad working for free just to get a good recommendation to take to the U.S. with them) and everyday life that brings Lev, his family, people who threaten and cause problems as well as those who care and help, to vivid life. You can't help but read on; the story pulls you in and you find you'd rather stay in it than put the book down to do other things you must do (like work).
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is a beautifully written and accurately described memoir 18 Sep 2014
By AIROLF - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautifully written and accurately described memoir. As Golinkin's contemporary, someone who is only a few years younger than him but who has had a very similar childhood of growing up in the former Soviet union and then emigrating to the U.S., I can relate to his tale of woe and redemption.

In the very beginning of the book, the author states that his college graduation made him realize that he was running away from his past, hiding from his heritage, and trying too hard to fit in. You don't have to emigrate from another country to know that all of us have unresolved issues from our past.

What better way to reconcile those issues than to put them down on paper, to release the demons within us?

A great book is a book that stays with you long after you have finished reading it. I have just read "A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka" so I can not attest to the longevity of it in my memory. What I can say, however, is that I haven't experienced this much nostalgia for my childhood since I, myself, was a child, i.e., never.

Golinkin is able to capture the intricacies with the mind of an adult but relate them in a sarcastic wit and from the innocent eyes of a child.

I found the book inspiring -- I'd love to write a memoir. Golinkin's writing is effortless; it makes you believe that anyone can write and that everyone has a story to say.

I would love to read this guy's future works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Memoirs from the Ukraine: witty and fun 21 Oct 2014
By Amy Henry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you are in your 40s, you probably remember the end of the Cold War quite well. Before that, the Soviet Union was portrayed by the media (and pretty close to reality) as a brutal enemy, a bastion of Communism, with hints of the Siberian Gulags that preceded it. We had the Doomsday Clock and WWIII was always present. We even had school practice drills in case of nuclear war. Younger than that, you may not realize how different the Soviet era was from present day Russia, although Putin seems to be taking it a step backward.
In any case, from Glasnost to when smaller nations broke free from the USSR and gained independence, many changes took place that leaves the actual Soviet era somewhat forgotten. And nothing is drier than reading about it in an old history book. Breshnev and Gorbachav are almost caricatures today.
A better way to read the history is through this memoir. Lev Golinkin is like David Sedaris, funny and irreverent, with an amused eye that reveals the smaller details that ultimately mean the most in understanding the history. He recounts, from his adopted American perspective, how it was that he came to America and why he wanted to go back.
He grew up in the Ukraine and it's helpful to see, given this last year's actions with Russia and the Ukraine, how timely his writing is. I felt like I got a better understanding of the people and the place and why there is a difference between a Ukrainian citizen versus a Russian one.
Many people helped Golinkin escape to America, and his appreciation for them is great. It's wonderful to think he wanted to revisit them to thank them and also to better understand where he came from. As a Russian Jew, his story has another dimension given the prejudice to the Jews by many.
Russia has always been my favorite place to read about, and this ranks with other books about the period (some of which are fiction but still reveal much about the land and history and peoples). Vasily Grossman's "Everything Flows", Martin Amis' "House of Meetings" and Rasskazy, a collection of Russian stories, can really fill out your knowledge of Russia. With this memoir, you get even more from the latter period that is often ignored in favor of the Gulags. Just for kicks, the books of Andrew Kurkov, "Death and the Penguin" and "Penguin Lost", as well as "The Case of the General's Thumb" also deal with Ukrainian lore but in a crime novel genre.
Golinkin's book is probably the most accessible and fun way to read about Russia. Highly recommend.
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