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10 December 2018

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Book Review

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Everything is Normal

Sergey Grechishkin (Inkshares, $15.99)

“If I were to describe my Soviet childhood in one word, that word would be normal.”

So begins Grechishkin’s memoir of his teen years growing up in Leningrad.

It is the 1980s. Old and new are racing for a showdown, and young Seryozha is coming of age. Things might have been “normal” in Grechishkin’s life, but Soviet normal was nothing like normal anywhere else, so his story is an invaluable, highly personal look at life as it was lived in the period of zastoy – “stagnation,” and then into perestroika. After school activities, samizdat, school field trips, and social stratification are all discussed with a detail and intimacy it would be hard to find in other sources, making this book very useful as social history.

And throughout Grechishkin relishes recounting his tales with humor – self-deprecating when it comes to his own youthful exploits, and rather darker when it comes to the activities of the repressive state into which he chanced to be born.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2018