I was really looking forward to reading this graphic memoir of growing up in 1980s Poland. Sowa and Savoia depict lots of surprising realities--the privations of life behind the Iron Curtain, like chewing window putty for want of gum--and life-shaking historical moments, like Solidarnosc, but maybe because Sowa was so young during the time period she's telling us about, there isn't enough nuance or engagement to make her story as compelling as I wanted it to be.
Tagged with communism
Apparently life in North Korea is pretty grim. Most people don't even have electricity for more than a few hours a day, as you can see from this image that opens Nothing to Envy.
You'd think that would lead to a lot of teenage pregnancy, but according to the North Korean defectors Demick interviewed in South Korea, there's not a lot of premarital sex in the dark nation. Two of her subjects dated from their teens through early twenties without doing more than kissing, and it took them nine years to get to that point. It's just as well that the culture is so straight-laced, since the country can't feed the citizens it has. According to Demick, "Even in the best of times North Korea can produce only about 60 percent of the food needed for its population, and it currently cannot afford to import the rest." And these are not the best of times for North Korea.
I've read the book's prequel Rivington Street but hadn't revisited Union Square since I bought it in a used bookstore in Guatemala in 2001. RS is a historical novel, but US reads more like a fictional history. It's full of educational examinations of Jewish life in the 1920s-40s, covering issues like Palestine, Zionism, World War II, communism, and labor politics, but also tells the stories through the lenses of art, fashion, and psychiatry. Tax used oral histories for her research, and the voices sound authentic. To me the most interesting and informative bits are the characters internal and external struggles with the party line and the multi-faceted views on the conflicting Zionist movements. The author does a good job of revealing multiple truths in these contentious topics, but you still have an idea where she's at personally. The sometimes disastrous relationship between the Communist Party and American labor, not to mention the difficulties it creates between father and daughter is sometimes painful to read, but fascinating stuff!