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You Must Go and Win Paperback – June 7, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479159
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,507,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Vibrant, taut and humorous…[Simone] skillfully captures the forlorn waiting-to-be-famous existence of young creative people.”—Kirkus

“Singer-songwriter Simone dissects her Russian roots, her convoluted path toward religion, and what it means to be an artist, in this razor-sharp debut essay collection. Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1974 Simone moved to Massachusetts with her parents (her father was blacklisted by the KGB) as an infant and grew up loving to sing. But the road to indie rock stardom is a bumpy one, from trying to find a producer on Craigslist in "Gloom-Deflecting Mailman Warrior Gods" to being so close to getting your album distributed, then hearing that all the money’s been stolen, in "Down and Out on Hope Street." Working for a nonprofit that ran a teaching program in Russia, Simone’s own past and her musical inspirations soon merged around the figure of Siberian punk rocker Yanka Dyagileva, who died young in 1991 and whose songs Simone covered in a 2008 album. In "I Wanted Unicorns," she recounts a Russian trip where she not only sees Dyagileva’s grave but is baptized by a renegade priest named Punk Monk. Throughout all of this, she struggles to figure out how to make a life--and a living--from making music. Simone ably juggles the philosophical and the comical, her genuine enthusiasm for arcane subject matter as contagious as the fleas in her long ago apartment.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Most collections of personal essays are dull. This one isn’t. Alina Simone uses her life as material to tell stories that are funny, heartwarming, tragic—often all at the same time. Her subjects, whether music, religion, Russia, or family, are conjured and dissected with warm humor and sharp eyes. Probably it’s a really good thing she never became an international rock star: she wouldn’t have written this if she had.”  —Neil Gaiman

“Never has the paying of creative dues been written about with more sincerity and humor. As a twenty-first century Portrait of the Artist, warts and all, You Must Go and Win is a delight and, in all honesty, an inspiration.”  —John Wray, author of Lowboy

“At the memoir’s core is a protagonist yearning to establish musical connections to her past. Simone’s earnest desire to represent individuals honestly leads to detailed character descriptions that enliven the people in her memoir.”—Joshua Finnell, Library Journal
“A collection of wry, fascinating essays . . . The combination of her Russian heritage and her escapades as a struggling artist provide fodder for poignant and hilarious tales like arriving in her native Kharkov to meet The Cousin Who Drinks Water. No matter how foreign the territory, be it a studio or the Ukraine, Simone’s writing is imminently relatable.” —BrooklynBased
“Her warm and hilarious new book is full of self-effacing anecdotes about trying to make it as an artist in New York and other madcap adventures—making it one of few memoirs that stands out in a crowd.” —
“The resulting book is a collection of funny, cynical essays on meeting sketchy producers off of Craigslist, her obsession with Skopsy, a Russian castrati set, and battling fleas in her Williamsburg apartment.” —Courier Life
“After a chance listen by a major publishing editor on Pandora, Alina was asked to write the essays for the book, You Must Go and Win . What comes out are essays about trying to find a roommate in Brooklyn, living in the realm of the music PR machine and explorations of her Russian background. Some would say ‘poignant’ and ‘introspective.’ But there’s also a deftness Alina has in discussing the business of music along with the hopes and dreams wrapped up in it.” —Impose Magazine
“An engaging and honest look at an indie musician’s life…Written with clutter-free concision, Simone’s search for meaning reads pithy and often laugh-out-loud funny.” —Blurt
“Simone reveals the flair of a born raconteur, recounting record deals gone bust; the ubiquity of Britney Spears, even in Siberia; and hanging out with alt-cabaret belter Amanda Palmer, Simone’s childhood friend.” —SPIN
“Amazing . . . Sarah Vowell fans, trust me on this one: pre-order Alina Simone’s ‘You Must Go and Win’ now. The funniest essays I’ve read in years.” —Michael Schaub, Bookslut

About the Author

Alina Simone is a critically acclaimed singer who was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and now lives in Brooklyn. Her music has been covered by a wide range of media, including BBC’s The World, NPR, Spin, Billboard, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. This is her first book.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tyler V. Mcmahon on June 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
It turns out that, in addition to being a great songsmith, Simone happens to be an incredible writer of prose. Her essays are often laugh-out-loud funny, always smart and heartfelt. Like indie rock's answer to David Sedaris, she paints her life with equal parts tragedy and comedy, and just the right amount of self-deprecation.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Vargas on June 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
I don't laugh out loud when reading books.

I laughed out loud several times while reading this book.

Funny, grim, despairing, and hopeful all at the same time. Plus unicorns.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Korchnak on April 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
Alina Simone's critically (and, on occasion, uncritically) acclaimed collection of personal essays "You Must Go and Win," documents her circuitous path through music industry's wilderness and the discovery of her Russian roots. You must go and read it.

At the risk of overgeneralizing: Simone deadpans as perhaps only an Eastern European can; her voice engages as perhaps only an American storyteller's is able to. Simone has been called "a frenzied, Eastern European musician's version of humorist David Sedaris." Both Simone and Sedaris find humor in the banality of life; both are self-identified outsiders; both are yearning for something defined only vaguely. But to compare the two is on par with saying that their last names begin with the letter S.

The Epic Struggle

In her review of "You Must Go and Win" in The Jewish Daily Forward, Yevgeniya Traps maintains that Simone belongs to the category of young immigrants who are "crippled by the realization that they--coddled and suburbanized--can never be as tough as their parents, who were disciplined by Communist deprivation and driven to the terrible risks of emigration. This second sort is moved to re-enact, typically with comical results, the experience of displacement and relocation in their career choices."

In the book, Simone recognizes how good she, born in Kharkov, Ukraine, but for all intents and purposes an American, has had it compared to her parents. She also knows that the safety and freedom of her American life deprived her of a force to combat (in fact, in a tacit acknowledgment of her parents' willpower, she mentions little by way of past rebellion against them). Traps's interpretation limits in scope the re-enactment of parental experiences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roland Goity on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Here's a few words of wisdom: "You Must Go and Win." No matter how cruel and forbidding life becomes in the cutthroat landscape where you've tossed your hat, persevere. Clunky, perhaps, but it's certainly a more uplifting message than the familiar, Don't Give Up! It's especially sound advice if you're slithering through the trenches of the indie rock world, as songstress Alina Simone so ably describes in her always compelling and always humorous collection of essays and memoir.

Simone has an engaging voice, both on stage and on the page. Like her lyrics and vocals which can be raw and edgy, her prose too pulls no punches, as she elucidates on universal subjects such as family, faith, career, and cat medicine. Simone was born in Ukraine but came to the states as an infant when her father was blacklisted by the KGB. She tells of her adventures back to the old country to connect with her nascent roots. She writes of a road trip documentary project with her old, childhood friend Amanda Palmer, pre-Dresden Dolls fame. Simone comments on the late Soviet singer Yanika Dyangileva, whose music she loved (and covered on an album), and how her affection for the singer led her to the Punk Monk, who in turn led her to examine personal matters of faith.

And there's a whole lot more, especially the Everest-size obstacles that await an indie rock singer or on the road to fame--or simply respectability. Yet despite the Craigslist meetings with would-be producers and well-intentioned startup labels that lead to nowhere, Simone's talent wins out. Although the hilarious anecdotes and self-deprecating prose is oftentimes more cautionary than inspiring, Simone's fresh voice is endearing and makes the reader pull for her every step of the way. Indeed, with her debut collection, she's gone out and won.
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More About the Author

Alina Simone is writer based in New York City whose books include the essay collection 'You Must Go and Win' and the novel 'Note to Self,' both published by Faber and Faber. Born in Ukraine and raised in Massachusetts, Simone spent almost a decade as a singer on the indie rock circuit before coming to the attention of an editor who heard her music on Pandora and contacted her out of the blue, suggesting she write a book. Her work has since appeared in The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Esopus, The Los Angeles Review, the Wall Street Journal online and McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

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