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13 November 2018

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Born in Siberia

By Tamara Astafieva (Quartet Books, $22)

p align="left">This intimate memoir is the very personal tale of an ordinary Russian woman, lived out from the late Soviet era to the present day. Yet in another sense, Tamara Astafieva’s life story is also a rather representative one – through her memoir we can better grasp the realities of this era, from marriage and childbirth, to foreign friendships, work, and even mental illness.

The book was made possible because Tamara’s life was not by any means ordinary. Her talents and skills brought her into contact with foreign clients of Novosti, and it is through their good devices that her story is now told (her autobiographical reminiscences are interspersed or backfilled with commentary by friends).

Tamara’s is a story worth reading if you wish to better understand the role of women in Soviet and Russian society, of how the competing pressures of work and family played out in her single, rather representative life.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Mar/Apr 2014