American and Russian Studies scholar and author Julia L. Mickenberg discusses her new book about a little known but fascinating chapter in history — American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream — with host Thorne Dreyer and Rag Radio contributor Alice Embree.
The book was published in 2017 by the University of Chicago Press.
Julia Mickenberg is Associate Professor of American Studies and an affiliate of the Center for Women and Gender Studies, and heads the Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of the award-winning Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States. Julia has twice before been our guest on Rag Radio, including our remote keynote broadcast from the 50th Anniversary Rag Reunion, in which she interviewed noted historian Doug Rossinow.
About the book:
If you were an independent, adventurous, liberated American woman in the 1920s or 1930s where might you have sought escape from the constraints and compromises of bourgeois living? Paris and the Left Bank quickly come to mind. But would you have ever thought of Russia and the wilds of Siberia? This choice was not as unusual as it seems now.
As Julia L. Mickenberg uncovers in American Girls in Red Russia, there is a forgotten counterpoint to the story of the Lost Generation: beginning in the late nineteenth century, Russian revolutionary ideology attracted many women, including suffragists, reformers, educators, journalists, and artists, as well as curious travelers. Some were famous, like Isadora Duncan or Lillian Hellman; some were committed radicals, though more were just intrigued by the “Soviet experiment.” But all came to Russia in search of social arrangements that would be more equitable, just, and satisfying. And most in the end were disillusioned, some by the mundane realities, others by horrifying truths.
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