Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution
by Julia Alekseyeva Author
Soviet Daughter provides a window into the life of a rebellious, independent woman coming of age in the USSR, and the impact of her story and her spirit on her American great-granddaughter, two extraordinary women swept up in the history of their tumultuous times.
Soviet Daughter is the story of Julia Alekseyeva's great-grandmother Lola. Born in 1910 to a poor, Jewish family outside of Kiev, Lola lived through the Bolshevik revolution, a horrifying civil war, Stalinist purges, and the Holocaust. She taught herself to read, and supported her extended family working as a secretary for the notorious NKVD (which became the KGB) and later as a lieutenant for the Red Army. Her family, including 4-year-old Julia, immigrated to the U.S. as refugees in the wake of Chernobyl and forged a new life. Interleaved with Lola's history we find Julia's own struggles of coming of age in an immigrant family and her political awakening in the midst of the radical politics of the turn of the millennium.
At times heartbreaking and at times funny, this graphic novel memoir unites two generations of strong, independent women against a sweeping backdrop of the history of the USSR. Like Sarah Glidden in How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, or Marjane Satrapi in Persepolis, Alekseyeva deftly combines compelling stories of women finding their way in the world with an examination of the ties we all have with our families, ethnicities, and the still-fresh traumas of the 20th century.
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Comments & Reviews
A remarkable first person account of the Soviet revolution in Kiev, the Holocaust and World War II, incredible poverty and deprivation, and finally escape from Stalinism to the United States.
She weaves autobiographical interludes between chapters of Lola's story, creating a tapestry that unites the narratives of two kindred spirits.
"The black and white palette and watercolor palette juxtaposes the stark brutality of the history being explored with the everyday joys that Lola and Julia both discover. Successful use of full page splashes and varied panel sizes guide the reader through the story."
"Offers a little explored view into the Jewish experience in the Soviet Union and beyond. ... With the modern rise of neo-Nazis and anti-feminism, it's important to find literature that explores the experiences of the not-too-distant past before it returns."
**Soviet Daughter was selected as the winner of the Adult category of the Virginia Library Association Graphic Novel Award 2017**
Through her great grandmother's voice, Julia imagines Lola's world—one that is, at times, immensely foreign, and sometimes, especially when it comes to the two women’s shared activism, zeitgeist and personality—intimately familiar.
"...provides a window into the life of a rebellious, independent woman coming of age in the USSR, and the impact of her story and her spirit on her American great-granddaughter."
"I found the end of the book so moving because there's this real sense of integration of a new level of understanding, how [Lola's] present in [Julia's] life even though she's not physically with [her] anymore."
"fascinating and serves as a reminder of the difficulties women faced in their struggle to live an independent life."
"The heartbreaking story of anti-Semitism, World Wars, Stalinism, xenophobia, Communism, and resilience amongst these three generations of women will have you rooting for all of them. The story by Alekseyeva is heart wrenching, with moments of levity, but leave the reader besides themselves. "
"...demonstrates how female badassery can define and even steer family history and legacy, giving us a Marxist feminist analysis of war, labor, and domesticity."
"a portrait of Russian life from right before the Revolution to the end of World War II'
"...both a window into an important chapter of modern Jewish history and a reminder of the needs of people for loving, human connections, especially those who find themselves far from home."
" unites two generations of strong, independent women against a sweeping backdrop of the history of the USSR."
"...the memories of two generations of strong and independent women join the backdrop of the history of the USSR."
"...the intimacy of the art accomplishes the ambitions of a multilayered, generation-spanning graphic novel. This is a book to read now and a creator to watch into the future."
"To put it simply, Lola’s story is incredible."
"a fascinating read"
"I defy you to not be moved!"
"...so fantastic. ...What an amazing woman [Lola] was!"
"....draws a parallel between her own idealism, that of the Occupy generation, and Lola’s. After a century, we’re able to see the Russian Revolution and the early Soviet project with clearer eyes. ... The high hopes of people like Lola are worth remembering."
"....Alekseyeva draws a parallel between her own idealism, that of the Occupy generation, and Lola’s. After a century, we’re able to see the Russian Revolution and the early Soviet project with clearer eyes."
"...rich and intense, and also full of supplementary comments and explanations of various aspects of Soviet everyday life..."
"As we all struggle to make sense of the Trump era, Alekseyeva has written and drawn a story of autocracy, revolution, and the refugee experience..."
"...really fascinating story."
"Lola's story is [just] astounding...""
"inspirational and epic"
"This cross-generational relationship paints their stories in gorgeous expressive ink washes, hand-drawn picturesque panels. It brings to life the challenges of adulthood, war and death..."
"Everything is done simply, accurately, and truthfully, and that truth-- coupled with an attempt to show history not as a history of ideas, but as the development of personalities-- helps round out the sharp edges without looking for compromise or political antagonism."
"Soviet Daughter is a call to arms as much as it is a memoir. It ends with a message, reminding the reader that they can use their voice to go out and change the world just as the people who came before them have done. In a time when vital progress on important issues such as women's reproductive rights or equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community looks close to being undone this message couldn't be more important."
"Lola’s story not only serves as a thrilling historical tale, filled with details to teach anyone about the history and culture of the USSR, but also envisions how we can serve the communities around us, and that we learn this through the practice and experience of others."
"... recording the stories of her life as a Jew in the Soviet Union, filled with vivid details and enlivened by a strong, independent spirit."
"Julia Alekseyeva’s graphic memoir Soviet Daughter is a tightrope act of balance between the political and the personal. Spanning one hundred years of family history, war, and revolution, Soviet Daughter brilliantly leverages the graphic novel as an elastic, illuminating form."
"...a labor of love, a memoir, a personal history, and a political history—an achievement of both visual and written storytelling. But what elevates Alekseyeva’s work even further is its relevance to today’s political climate. Soviet Daughter reminds us of the horrors of the past, and soothes those of us disheartened by current politics."
At times heartbreaking and at times funny, this graphic novel memoir unites two generations of strong, independent women against a sweeping backdrop of the history of the USSR.
"In this debut graphic memoir, Alekseyeva presents a history of strong women finding their way in hostile systems...[an] incredible tale of pluck, joy, and hard-fought survival... A panoramic personal history."
"Though Julia is pictured at a Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, and makes brief mention of the break-up of her non-gender-specified relationship, her book's focus is on her great-grandmother's life, not her own...It's a new way to tell serious stories."
"The richness of Julia Alekseyeva’s comic resides in the contrast and surprising affinities between her own life and that of her great grandmother, a vivacious and confident woman who gives us a fascinating glimpse of everyday life in the tumultuous but heady early days of the Soviet Union."
"Julia Alekseyeva's illustrations add layers of pathos and love to her great grandmother's intense and relatable memoirs of life in The Ukraine. The story pulls you in. The pictures are beautiful; you can tell the illustrator cares about what she's saying."
"Soviet Daughter spans over 100 years to tell the stories of survival of two exceptional women. This delicately crafted book details a dynamic past, bringing it to life in the present."