Russian Tattoo

A Memoir

Russian Tattoo

Finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

From the bestselling author of A Mountain of Crumbs, a “brilliant and illuminating” (BookPage) portrait of mothers and daughters that reaches from Cold War Russia to modern-day New Jersey to show how the ties that hold you back can also teach you how to start over.

Elena Gorokhova moves to the US in her twenties to join her American husband and to break away from her mother, a mirror image of her Soviet Motherland: overbearing, protective, and difficult to leave. Before the birth of Elena’s daughter, her mother comes to help care for the baby and stays for twenty-four years, ordering everyone to eat soup and wear a hat, just as she did in Leningrad. Russian Tattoo is the story of a unique balancing act and a family struggle: three generations of strong women with very different cultural values, all living under the same roof and battling for control. As Elena strives to bridge the gap between the cultures of her past and present and find her place in a new world, she comes to love the fierce resilience of her Soviet mother when she recognizes it in her American daughter.

“Gorokhova writes about her life with a novelist’s gift,” says The New York Times, and her second memoir is filled with empathy, insight, and humor.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451689839 | 
  • January 2016
List Price $15.99
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Russian Tattoo includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Elena Gorokhova. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In her bestselling memoir A Mountain of Crumbs, Elena Gorokhova describes coming of age behind the Iron Curtain and leaving her mother and her Motherland for a new life in the United States. Now, in Russian Tattoo, Elena learns that the journey of an immigrant is filled with everyday mistakes, small humiliations, and a loss of dignity. Cultural disorientation comes in the form of not knowing how to eat a hamburger, buy a pair of shoes, or catch a bus. But through perseverance and resilience, Elena gradually adapts to her new country. When her mother arrives from the Soviet Union to help care for her infant granddaughter, she ends up staying twenty-four years. Initially provoking conflict, the arrival of her mother is the catalyst for a growing sense of understanding and redemption. A poignant memoir of three generations of strong and strikingly different women struggling with separation and loss, humor and grief, and power and powerlessness, Russian Tattoo is a story of empathy, insigh see more

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About the Author

Elena Gorokhova
© Lauren Perlstein

Elena Gorokhova

Elena Gorokhova grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, although for most of her life it was known to her as Leningrad. At the age of twenty-four she married an American and came to the United States with only a twenty kilogram suitcase to start a new life. The bestselling author of A Mountain of Crumbs and Russian Tattoo, she has a Doctorate in Language Education and currently lives in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, on BBC Radio, and in a number of literary magazines.

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