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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative Look at How Communism Failed it's People
Slavenka explores the perplexing lives of Eastern European women living in Communism through her short essays. There is nothing funny about these stories. The author displays how Communism failed its people, and how it failed its women. A visit to Yugoslavia in the 1980's, opened my eyes to the trials these women faced. I lived like these women. I brought with me...
Published on July 9, 1999

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not entirely accurate
In my opinion, Ms. Drakulic did exaggerate some things related to Yugoslavia (now abstract and gone). I guess this was done for the sake of keeping readers animated and interested in finishing the book. I do agree with the reader from Slovenia, as I was also born in the former Yugoslavia. Yes, we did occasionally have shortage of some items in the 80's, but not to the...
Published on August 29, 2012 by Medeni Lazarus


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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative Look at How Communism Failed it's People, July 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
Slavenka explores the perplexing lives of Eastern European women living in Communism through her short essays. There is nothing funny about these stories. The author displays how Communism failed its people, and how it failed its women. A visit to Yugoslavia in the 1980's, opened my eyes to the trials these women faced. I lived like these women. I brought with me stockpiles of medicine, sanitary napkins, soap and detergent. These items were impossible to buy and if you could find these items they were outrageously expensive. I washed my clothes by hand, scrubbed them in the basins Slavenka talks about. I walked around with the same fear, the same hopelessness for the future. Live for today, survive today. No bother to worry about tomorrow. This book should be a part of all woman studies programs, it gives insight to the lives of women living in Eastern Block countries. It gives insights to the trials they face and the fear of the future that goes along with it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short stories about women's lives in Eastern bloc countries, September 15, 1998
By A Customer
Drakulic is a journalist by trade, and as such has a no-nonsense writing style: stark, factual. She interviewed women of various countries and captured stories of what they endured mentally and physically under communist rule. This is one of my favorite books, one I will read again and again, and which I have given copies of to my friends.
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51 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reader, beware..., February 8, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
I would have given this book three and a half stars if I had the option; but I don't, so I am giving it four, all on account of its good narrative and occasional wit.
I keep hearing and reading about what an "eye-opener" this book has been for readers in Western countries. That is all well and fine; many of the things she describes are valid information.
The problem is that this book, by empathizing (and rightly so) with the everday noodle-and-darning plight of "sisters" in other so-called Communist regimes (all of whom had a MUCH harder time than we in the former Yugoslavia ever did) tends to blur not only the HUGE political and social nuances and distinctions among the various "Communist" countries, but also inside ex-Yugoslavia itself. In short, the so-called Communist "block" was never really a "block" - it was a tapestry of many nuances and textures, depending on the country.
Admittedly, I belong to a different generation than Ms. Drakulić. Furthermore, I was born and grew up in the northern part of the country, called Slovenia (now, an independent state), which was, incidentally, the "richest" part of Yugoslavia. (And BTW: I don't recall any of her interlocutors in the book being a Slovene... Why not? Maybe because the situation in Slovenia wouldn't fit in with the utterly dismal picture that she is painting?)
Here are some facts: often, there were (usually short-term) shortages of different things: sugar, bananas, chocolate, detergent... I even remember a shortage of toilet paper, once. But never all at the same time, and never for very long. We never queued, like the unfortunate peoples of the Soviet satellite states. I for one DID have dolls, very pretty ones (no, NOT rag dolls) - 18 of them! If there ever was a shortage of tampons (I never use them), I certainly don't remember any shortage of sanitary towels. We were always nicely dressed and made-up; and if the clothes on offer in our own country didn't suit us, we'd make a 2 hour trip to nearby Italy, where we could buy more trendy attire. (Nobody in my family ever did that, BTW.)
No, I am not one of those short-memoried "nostalgics" who mourn the demise of the Titoist regime and the fallacy of the infamous "unity & fraternity" slogans of those days... In fact, I did every thing that I could to help erode it and bring it down.
I just resent history - ANY history - being "tailored" to suit the prefabricated expectations of foreign readers.
Had Ms. Drakulić decided to include a "girl talk" with a Slovene or two - who were even her "compatriots" in those times, after all - a picture slightly more complex would emerge. And maybe then people elsewhere wouldn't have been surprised by the news that Yugoslavia was falling apart... It already WAS - always had been - several different countries within one artificial structure.
In short: enjoy this book, for it tells the truth - and it tells it well! Just not the ENTIRE truth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you think communism is a good thing...read this quick!, November 27, 2013
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This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
This book was chosen by my book club by a member who grew up in Romania. I found it very thought-provoking...some felt it was depressing, as the title tends to make you think it would be a bit more light-hearted. Unfortunately, life in a communist country seems to have little light-heartedness to write about. It was so interesting that when the author came to America to speak at universities, the professors expected her to be pro-communist. When they found that she told the unvarnished truth about life in communist Romania, they were no longer interested in hearing her story. As Marxist wannabes, they chose to remain in denial. I realized that my Romanian friend chose this book to give westerners a glimpse at the kind of life communism offers. It's chilling. This book should be read by every person who thinks socialism/communism offers any solutions to the so-called "inequities" of a capitalistic system. From those who are in a position to know--it clearly does not.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for all women's studies classes!, February 5, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
I read this book while I was living in Prague. Living in Eastern Europe does not automatically ensure an understanding of the people or the culture, and this book was very helpful. The position of women in Eastern Europe (and of course, the world over) is consistently marginalized, so this book is important in that it finally brings the woman's perspective and experience in Eastern Europe out into the open.
The other thing that makes this book extremely worthwhile is that it continues to bring home the difference between Eastern Europe and the West. As a woman from the US, it was impossible for me to conceive of and understand these women's experiences, and where those experiences have brought them today. It becomes very easy, in the interests of simplification, to essentialize the experiences of all european women, or all white women. This book shows us that it is not that simple, or easy, or fair, to do so.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not entirely accurate, August 29, 2012
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
In my opinion, Ms. Drakulic did exaggerate some things related to Yugoslavia (now abstract and gone). I guess this was done for the sake of keeping readers animated and interested in finishing the book. I do agree with the reader from Slovenia, as I was also born in the former Yugoslavia. Yes, we did occasionally have shortage of some items in the 80's, but not to the extent it was presented in this book. Not even close to her book "Cafe Europa", in terms of being informative about the Eastern Block (Warsaw Pact) countries, which by the way, Yugoslavia was never part of. This book will make readers, unfamiliar with the Eastern Europe, think just that.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book for everyone ... would that it were read by everyone!, December 26, 1999
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
A fascinating collection of poignant vignettes on being a woman in communist Yugoslavia (with stories of the author's friends and acquaintances in other Eastern European countries.) Ms. Drakulic shares with the West the reasons whereby 40-plus years of communist-engendered habits and viewpoints and tendencies cannot undergo an overnight "attitude adjustment". This book is a must for anyone who seeks to begin to sympathize and understand the thoughts and roots of people (especially women) who were born and raised in Eastern Europe. I bulldozed through it, and am now reading her "Cafe Europa". Eye-opening!
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Look at Ordinary Lives under Communism, October 6, 1998
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
This is not a great book. This is a pretty good book. It is an interesting book, but not an important book. Slavenka Drakulic, itinerant Croatian writer, gives us communism on the ground. There are no ideological struggles here, no discussions of the finer points of Marxist theology. Instead Drakulic demonstrates clearly that communism is empty, that it failed its citizens, its leaders, and itself. Forty-five years of communist leadership in Yugoslavia failed to produce livable apartments, affordable telephones, sanitary products for women, dolls for children. In short, communism failed because all along it was a massive shell game where the party members were haves and everyone else were have-nots. It failed because it generated fear instead of happiness.
Worse, communism continues. We in the West like to use 1990 as a pushpin year for "the end of communism", but Drakulic demonstrates that communism thrives, if not in the government ministries of eastern Europe, then in the hearts and minds and habits and fears of its inhabitants. The funereal atmosphere in Zagreb as Croatia held its first democratic elections in decades, the compulsive hoarding by a populace made wary by the unreliability of supplies of staples and everyday products, the resignation to lives no better than those of parents and grandparents. These sensibilities endure in eastern Europe, and they probably will go on for decades until a younger generation with no memory of communist economic planning and political oversight steps to the fore. "The end of communism is still remote because communism, more than a political ideology or a method of government, is a state of mind."
Finally, Drakulic shows us that the "trivial is political". That communism has successfully achieved it aim of raising the political consciousness of the masses, for when trivial acts such as buying toilet paper and making a phone call are made contingent on political decisions by faceless, scary bureaucrats in forbidding buildings, then every act and every person becomes politicized. Politicized in silent yielding opposition to authority, but not politicized to challenge the legitimacy of such an illegitimate regime.
Drakulic's essays are touching and humorous. They are as sad as the story of half the women in Poland suddenly sprouting red hair, because red was the only color of hair dye available. These essays bring us nose-to-nose with the unfortunates forced to endure in a political system whose strong point was always in theory and whose weak points were generation after generation of misery for millions of people in dozens of countries.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favorite books of all time, July 28, 2010
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
This book is a poignant portrait of personal resistance to the hardships of the Communist era. It was required reading in graduate school, so I expected it to be informative, but it is so much more than that. It makes the reader question not only the Communist regimes of the not-so-distant past, but also one's very notion of what femininity and feminism are. Drakulic tells these personal stories with humor and empathy. Unlike many "feminist" books, it's actually accessible to men, maybe because of the quotidien details that make each story so real. I've had overnight guests pick it up to read themselves to sleep and then find themselves still up late into the night because they can't put the book down!
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... and this one has to be one of the best I have ever read, December 5, 2014
This review is from: How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed (Paperback)
I have read a lot of books and this one has to be one of the best I have ever read. Originally assigned as reading for a class covering the history of women in Europe, I thoroughly enjoyed every word. This book is witty and thought provoking, providing a fascinating look inside the mindset and experiences of a woman who grew up in Eastern Europe during communism and how Western thinking and conditions compare/contrast. Growing up in the United States, this book gave me probably the best look I could possibly get about a woman's life in Eastern Europe during this time period, causing me to re-think a lot of previously formed notions I had not only about my own life, but about communism as well. I really can not speak too highly of this book, it was absolutely excellent.
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How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed
How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulic (Paperback - May 12, 1993)
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