Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Biography of No Place by Kate Brown~★★★★

Author: Kate Brown
Title: A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland
Release Date: September 6th, 2005
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Cover: "This a biography of a borderland between Russia and Poland, a region where, in 1925, people identified as Poles, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians lived side by side. Over the next three decades, the mosaic of cultures was modernized and homogenized out of existence by the ruling might of the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, and finally, Polish and Ukrainian nationalism. By the 1950s, this 'no place' emerged as a Ukrainian heartland, and the fertile mix of peoples that defined the region was destroyed." 

Taryn's Review: It's been too long! I had big plans to read over my Christmas break, but my city decided to rip out the old sewer system downtown and replace it; thus, the library was in the heart of that mess and it was a nightmare to try and park down there. And I'm a big baby when it comes to cold weather, so I wasn't willing to walk that far as the snow flurries and icy wind blew around me. I figured it may be a sign to take a break for a while, so that is exactly what I did. But, I must say, I am happy to be blogging again AND happy to have access the library again! I just made a trip today and I can't wait to get reading my selections.

This book was assigned for a class this past semester. I was a little pessimistic about it since my knowledge of Soviet Union history is virtually non-existent. However, Brown made this little borderland's history accessible to where just about anyone can pick up the book and understand the area she was speaking about (googling a map helps, too!). She used unique sources (which we argued about in class, but I enjoyed her methodology so I'm okay with it) like oral history, cultural stories, and folklore, which gave the book a different feel than many history books have.

The area discussed was a very unique area; the USSR's invasion and plans to both identify the people by nationality and "enlighten" the region through modernity's idea of progress was very fascinating. It was also very interesting to read how people reacted to such demands, especially when before it hadn't matter much to them, but now identity meant life for some and death for others after the Nazis invaded.

While this is a book that I think many people could understand, it's probably better suited for the ones who are interested in history. I also think this book would be a fun gift to give to someone who has a desire to learn more or has a background in Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, or German history. It may not highlight a mainstream location, but it still highlighted people who contributed to history in the middle of "no place."

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