Slavic and Eurasian Studies

New Book by CREEES Director Julia Mickenberg: "American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream"

Tue, June 6, 2017
New Book by CREEES Director Julia Mickenberg:
American Girls in Red Russia

 "American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream"
A new book by CREEES Interim Director Dr. Julia Mickenberg

— out on University of Chicago Press, April 25, 2017


From the publisher: If you were an independent, adventurous, liberated American woman in the 1920s or 1930s where might you have sought escape from the constraints and compromises of bourgeois living? Paris and the Left Bank quickly come to mind. But would you have ever thought of Russia and the wilds of Siberia? This choice was not as unusual as it seems now.

As Julia L. Mickenberg uncovers in American Girls in Red Russia, there is a forgotten counterpoint to the story of the Lost Generation: beginning in the late nineteenth century, Russian revolutionary ideology attracted many women, including suffragists, reformers, educators, journalists, and artists, as well as curious travelers. Some were famous, like Isadora Duncan or Lillian Hellman; some were committed radicals, though more were just intrigued by the “Soviet experiment.” But all came to Russia in search of social arrangements that would be more equitable, just, and satisfying. And most in the end were disillusioned, some by the mundane realities, others by horrifying truths. (University of Chicago Press)

Read Dr. Mickenberg's thoughts about her book and her research on Not Even Pastthe UT History Department blog:

"Until quite recently, tales of Americans’ enchantment with the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s were typically told as prelude to their eventual disenchantment: this “liberal narrative” described immature, naïve, utopian idealism replaced by contrition and mature, rational rejection of radical extremism. So it was that I felt embarrassed by the excitement I found myself experiencing when I read descriptions from the time of exciting developments in the “new Russia.” In addition to the Soviet avant garde’s innovations in visual art, theatre, film, and literature, I found repeated emphasis on the special provisions being made for women and children: eliminating the very idea of an “illegitimate” child; radically democratizing education; simplifying divorce; mandating equal pay in the workplace; legalizing and subsidizing abortion; extending pre-natal and maternal welfare provisions; and creating public dining halls, laundries, and nurseries so that domestic duties would not limit women’s professional capacity (yes, these duties were still understood to be women’s)...


More In the Press

Lapham's Quarterly, "Dancing for the Masses" (excerpt from the book)

UT College of Liberal Arts "Life and Letters" magazine, Spring 2017: "American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream"

Times Higher Education Book of the Week: "American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream, by Julia Mickenberg", "American Girls in Red Russian: Interview with Julia Mickenberg"


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