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How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,106 ratings  ·  484 reviews
Hailed by feminists and scholars as one of the most important contributions to women's studies in recent decades, Slavenka Drakulic’s gripping, beautifully written account—newly reissued in paperback—describes the daily struggles of women under the Marxist regime in the former republic of Yugoslavia.

In this provocative, acutely observed essay collection, renowned journalis
Paperback, 197 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Harper Perennial (first published 1991)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulić

In 1990 Slavenka Drakulic travelled through Yugoslavia, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, spending time with women and listening to their life stories, cooking with them, drinking coffee when they had any, learning how they had survived communism, and sometimes managing to laugh. This is her account of those women's lives in pre-revolutionary Eastern Europe.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه آگوست سال 2014میلادی

عنوان: کمو
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
In 1994, at the age of 21, I spent a summer living with a family in Eastern Europe. It was my first opportunity to see first hand the difficulties families, and especially women, faced in their everyday lives.

I spent the summer exploring a country where the people I met were friendly and unfailingly generous.

While my other American friends and I sometimes laughed to ourselves about the things we found strange in the culture - the out of date clothes, the overwhelming smell of body odor on the p
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So as near as I can tell from the book, living under communism is about the same as living in a pandemic: everyone stays home, there's no selection at the supermarket, and you can't find decent toilet paper anywhere. It's hard to believe that this is the future young lefties would want for themselves, but there you have it.

This is truly a good read, communist philosophy gets dragged squealing out of its dank hole and into the sunlight for us to take a look at, and it's an ugly beast! If you like
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Tam by: Ngoc
Shelves: non-fic
Good pieces of writings on life and lives under communism.

I agree with the author that her title is wrong. Whether these people "survived" the regime is doubtful. They did live through it, but survived? Not so sure. Did they laugh? Hardly. They may have laughed bitterly on som occasions, but overall they drowned in pain and sadness.

I like the book for its specific focus on women and their often-ignored domestic life. However, the book was not able to deliver the complete picture, the essence of
Hanieh Habibi
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last stories of this book made me cry! I can not stop mapping what she said about the communist government and what I've seen in my daily life in Iran. Hope we survive it. ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't really recall how this book made its way into my collection. Though given the topic, I suspect my sister, Jessa, may have been involved. This book is a collection of essays about what life was like for women in Eastern Europe under Communist regimes. These stories are mostly about deprivation: sharing small apartments with multiple families, the changing availability of toilet paper, repairing nylons over and over and over again, hoarding food, supplies, even plastic bags, because you ne ...more
Mahsa JVD
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, historical
Highly recommended.
Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it
sometimes this woman is a total hack ("an eastern european city without an old town center is like an oyster without a pearl" --> barf). sometimes she can't seem to decide whether she wants to make staggeringly broad generalizations or actually follow through with the countless interviews and anecdotes she starts throughout the book (i realize communism was a homogenizing force, but please. she took her sweet liberties with the royal we). sometimes she drones on and on and on (every chapter is, ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, intimate expression of reality from lives of former Soviet women before and after the 'fall' of communism. A mile-marker of feminist writing, this novel opens the personal lives of those who experienced overwhelmingly male dominated communist society where waiting hours in lines every day was routine, where sanitary napkins were non-existent, and where the best toilet paper to be found was the all too prevalent communist newspaper. This work compares and analyzes how life changed and ...more
Lucille Zimmerman
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Hailed by feminists and scholars as one of the most important contributions to women's studies in recent decades . . . "

How rich the irony in that half of all young people here in America want our country to become socialist (or communist). They all say it will be different.


I didn't pick up this book for political reasons. I picked it up based on a Rick Steves recommendations for those traveling to the Adriatic. We have an upcoming trip.

But, wow, am I glad I bought this book. Slavenka Dr
Sara Baftechi
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
For me, having grown up in the post-revolutionary Iran during the 8 year war, what Drakulic describes of the normal ordinary life under the communism could have been very accurate descriptions of my childhood. The shortages, the general poverty, political fear, closed societies cut out from the rest of the world, censorship, fear.
Erik Graff
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yugoslavia fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Sociology informed by autobiography about living as a woman in the former Yugoslavia. Often quite funny, sometimes poignant.
Sep 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was a disappointment, especially because this was not an easy book to find. I read and enjoyed very much Café Europa and They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Drakulic, but this one fell flat for me. The essays felt empty and even trivial.

I like Drakulic because she is not afraid to talk about how bad things were in Eastern Europe under Communism, and especially for women. She isn’t afraid to say it to Western leftists and feminists. In fact the one essay I quite liked was the one where she discu
Abigail Pappas
I can't even begin to express my deep gratitude for the words and stories told in this book. Women in communist Europe share their seemingly ordinary lives under this oppressive regime. Drakulic beautifully weaves these stories into a singular narrative: women can, and will, have a voice. ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So much truth in this book.
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was ok

The first essay, about a friend of the author's who committed suicide, and the penultimate one, about how war (in this case the war in Yugoslavia) creeps up on you and acquires a mythical quality, are both very moving. But I found most of the rest of the book unremarkable, and occasionally obnoxious. For example, there's a chapter in which Slavenka Drakulic complains about an article published in Time magazine in which a western writer explains that in the Soviet Union, washing machines aren't c
Amy Ko
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it
After the trip to Croatia in July, I wanted to know how the life was for Croatians during the Communism period(I was trying to find books about overall Croatian history but hard to find them in the US).Now Croatia looks lovely and peaceful but it certainly still has some scars underneath the beautiful exterior. Also, I have visited several pre-communist countries such as Hungary, Czech, Slovakia and Poland as well and also curious about the cultural difference between pre and post communism era. ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
If anyone wants to understand how East European communism devastated several generations of women, read this book. Slavenka Drukulic casts a wide net, covering a range of women in different countries who were affected by communism particularly on a personal and private level. She is not sentimental but allows the stories of the women she writes about to emerge with alarming honesty and compassion. Because of her own inbetween-ness, able to escape to the US where she must confront another kind of ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
As i said this book is easier to read than most books about life under the communistic rule.

It is from a woman's view. the humiliations and depredations these women suffered makes my heart ache for them.

These conditions are not just limited to countries under communist regimes, but to all countries where women are second class citizens.
I am glad to see several non-profit organizations are educating women across the world, and giving them a hand up and a way out..

Ms. Drakulic is a strong voice
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book at all. I read it for a college course. The entire book has an overtone of depression, and there is no let-up. I felt betrayed by the title. Although I expected some stories of misery and hardship, I also expected some about people rising above their situation and striving for a better world, with maybe some humor tossed in. But we get none of that. Instead, we are told about people broken by the system, only enduring their miserable lives and waiting for death. Reading t ...more
Christine Yeager
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was a great read! it discussed communism in relation to women. It spannned accross the beginning of the communist regime and into the "changes" that are put into place now. It discusses how an ideal cannot survive if it can't even provide essentials like sanitary napkins to half of its population. I really enjoyed the stories and I learned more about what it was like during the communist rule in eastern europe. ...more
kathryn robinson
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
I purchased this book at the Book Cafe in Makarska, Croatia on the eve of my return to Madrid. I read the whole book on the 5 hour plane ride back home. Drakulic's stories and observations illuminate the multiplicity of ways in which Communism effected and continue to effect women's lives in post-communist Balkans. The personal, the trivial, the ordinary is described, analyzed and politicized here... Can't wait to read more of her work! ...more
Steve Kettmann
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Drakulic brings to her essay both a mesmerizing eye for detail and a willingness to write things others won't. I'm still a little unclear on how everyone - and I do mean everyone - so quickly lost interest in the question of how that huge chunk of the world that for decades was dominated by the Soviet system would transition to something else, but I for one have not - and I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to dive in to this and others of Drakulic's books. ...more
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Insight into the life of a woman oppressed and inconvenienced by communism from a personal perspective. Can we as American citizens truly comprehend the feeling of walking into a grocery store and having only mustard and vinegar available? Forget about toilet paper and other essentials (yes, other essentials).
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous; easy to read; hard to read; happy; sad; chapter: "You Can't Drink Your Coffee Alone," tragic. A book about the Yugoslavia that no longer exists, but also about the traits that make us human (or should), which exist still--and must. ...more
Katie Anne
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dark, funny, and beautiful, this series of essays gets into the details of living under communism, a level we don't hear about enough in the 'West'. Powerful prose and a must read for anyone who loves personal essays that dig into deeper insights. ...more
Zuzana Palusakova
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
"That is how you are trained in this part of the world, not to believe in change. You are trained to fear change, so that when change eventually begins to take place, you are suspicious, afraid, because every change you experienced was always for the worse." ...more
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
And I was laughing reading it, and sharing many memories.
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Even better the second time I read it.
Erica Abela
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
"I realize that I only have words and that, from time to time, as I hold them in my arms I am less lonely." ...more
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Slavenka Drakulić (1949) is a noted Croatian writer and publicist, whose books have been translated into many languages.

In her fiction Drakulić has touched on a variety of topics, such as dealing with illness and fear of death in Holograms of fear; the destructive power of sexual desire in Marble skin; an unconventional relationship in The taste of a man; cruelty of war and rape victims in S. A N

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