Tag Archives: Communism

The Vagrants

Title: The Vagrants

Author:  Yiyun Li

Publisher: Random House, February 2009

Summary: The Vagrants takes place in the town of Muddy River in China during the late 1970s. The focus of the story is the execution of Gu Shan as a counterrevolutionary and the effect that her death has on various members of her community. Some of these residents were victims of Gu Shan during her days as a Red Guard and are excited about the upcoming denunciation ceremony and her execution. Others realize this is another injustice. The reader is introduced to several characters but what they have most in common is the oppression they suffer at the hands of their communist government. This is a tragic story but well worth reading.

Who will like this book? Readers who like historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Valeria’s Last Stand

Title: Valeria’s Last Stand

Author:  Marc Fitten

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA, April 2009

Summary: This is a lighthearted love story featuring an unexpected romantic couple. Valeria is a 68 year old spinster living in the quaint Hungarian town of Zivatar. Valeria endured heartbreak as  a young woman and has since become the crotchety town hag. She finds a new chance at love with the town potter, but he is involved with the pub owner Ibolya. Each member of this strange love triangle fears that this may be their last chance at love. Valeria and Ibolya both want the potter and neither will let anyone or anything  get in their way.

This is a delightful story written very much like a folk tale. Many of the characters are unnamed and are referred to only by their occupation: the potter, the apprentice, the mayor, etc. This is an enjoyable tale that I highly recommend.

Who will like this book?  Anyone who wants a light read. Also, if you are Hungarian or, like me, are related to one, you will get certainly get a charge out of these characters.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

When Skateboards Will Be Free

Title: When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood

Author: Said Sayrafiezadeh

Summary: In his debut memoir, Sayrafiezadeh describes his childhood in the Socialist Workers Party. Even after her husband leaves her to foment revolution in his native Iran, Said’s mom, Martha,  remains steadfast to him, and to the Party. Self-inflicted poverty is not only a constant, it is perceived as a guiding value - a way to identify with the struggle of the workers and a thumb to the eye of the bosses and their materialistic society. Martha tells young Said that he can have a skateboard after the revolution in an episode that supplies the title of the book.

While young Said hurtles through adulthood, attending SWP conferences, fearing for his father’s life in Iran, and taking a trip to Cuba to see the socialist dream in action, his mother’s psyche slowly unravels. This bracingly funny and shocking memoir is a revelation; a unique look into the world of people still waiting for the revolution to come from a powerful and promising new writer.

Who will like this book?: People who enjoy memoirs, particularly by people with interesting (and damaged) childhoods. Readers looking for insight into outsider and fringe politics.

If you like this, try this: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. For more on the politics, try Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian