Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region

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$25.00  $23.25
Schocken Books Inc
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.6 X 1.1 inches | 0.85 pounds

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About the Author
MASHA GESSEN's previous books include The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy and the national best seller The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. She has immigrated to the United States twice--once, as a teenager, from the Soviet Union and again, more than thirty years later, from Putin's Russia. She lives in New York City.
"Gessen tells a poignant tale in Where the Jews Aren't. The book's most memorable sections are Gessen's ruminations on homelessness as experienced by her own generation of Russian Jews, [which] helps her better appreciate the yearnings of the supporters of 'perhaps the worst good idea ever.' " --Steven J. Zipperstein, The New York Times Book Review

"Gessen has the subtlety, honesty and tragic sensibility necessary to take a period and a society that are dripping in cruel irony, and to tell her stories with great affect, without being treacly or preachy." --Haaretz

"Accessible....Gessen traces the grim story of Birobidzhan, a region in the desolate Soviet Far East where Jews were granted autonomy and an opportunity to escape their harsh existence of poverty, discrimination, terror, and 'non belonging' in Soviet Russia. The hopes were never realized, however, and the venture turned out to be a tale of 'concentrated tragic absurdity'....Gessen ably tells one of the 20th century's most chilling stories of struggle, perseverance, and despair." --Publishers Weekly

"Moscow-born Gessen addresses the story of the Jewish struggle for autonomy in Stalin's Russia. With no reason given, the Russian government decided that Jews, along with other ethnic groups like the Koreans, should be granted their freedom in an out-of-the-way spot along the Chinese border. Birobidzhan was one of the world's two Jewish states, a place with a Yiddish language newspaper but no Yiddish-speaking residents. As the author tells of the formation of the settlement in 1934, she describes life as a Russian Jew. Even though she left when she was 12, Gessen ably explores the mindset of those before her who lived through the time....Though the narrative offers a depressing picture of Russian Jews, it is packed with wonderful stories of strength, intelligence, and impressive perseverance." --Kirkus

"Throughout this concise and engaging book, Gessen strives to offer the story of Birobidzhan as idea, location, and experience.... Gessen's winding journey toward seeing herself as part of a people who were and are offers the reader a rich primary source about a still ongoing process of post-Soviet Jews gaining awareness of the Soviet Jewish experience." --The Forward

"This brief though complex book provides an illuminating chronicle of an under-examined area of 20th-century Jewish history." --Library Journal