Laughing All the Way to Freedom

The Americanization of a Russian Émigré


In stock

SKU: 9781476692982 Categories: , ,

About the Book

A sequel to the author’s autobiographical trilogy—Shush! Growing up Jewish under Stalin, In the Jaws of the Crocodile, and Farewell, Mama Odessa—this book is part memoir and part cultural study about the challenges of immigration and American accculturation. With self-deprecating humor, the author, a former Soviet satirist who was punished for trespassing the boundaries of public criticism, recollects his growing pains as he overcame his indoctrinated upbringing in a totalitarian society to embrace America’s defining values.

About the Author(s)

Professor emeritus at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Emil Draitser is an award-winning author of artistic and scholarly prose. Besides his 16 books, he has published essays and short stories in the Los Angeles Times, Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Prism International, World Literature Today, and others. He lives in West New York, New Jersey.

Bibliographic Details

Emil Draitser
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 231
Bibliographic Info: foreword, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9298-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5065-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Notes on Transliteration and Translation ix

Foreword by Konstantin V. Kustanovich 1

Preface 5

Part I. Farewell, Step-Mother Russia

 1. My Inner Emigration 15

 2. “Lessons of Montreal” 28

 3. “Dust” 32

Part II. Discovering America

 4. “Increditability” 47

 5. Buying a Used Soul 54

 6. “He Won’t Make It” 65

 7. Forbidden Laughter 76

 8. Looking for an American Friend 89

 9. “On the bumpy road to love” 110

Part III. Discovering Self in America

10. Law as a Carriage Drawbar 129

11. Blacksmiths of Happiness 140

12. “Save Kisa!” 147

13. “How Much for a Dozen of Insults?” 154

14. “Footmall” 164

IV. The Road to Americanization

15. “Comrade Millionaire” 177

16. “Disappearance” 189

17. Who Are You? 199

Afterword 209

Chapter Notes 213

Bibliography 217

Index 219

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Part memoir, part comparative psychology, part humor anthology,Laughing All the Way to Freedom is a fascinating delight. While recalling his early and lasting impressions of his adopted country, Draitser subjects his own formidable oeuvre as a satirical author—both pre- and post-emigration—to an insightful re-examination. While revisiting these wonderful texts, he gives us a sincere and illuminating retrospective account of the immigrant experience, including the mixed joy and apprehension of unexpectedly being able to visit his homeland (and beloved city of Odessa) again, after having found the courage to leave it forever. The recent and ongoing terrible events in Ukraine and Russia give the book an additional, almost unbearable poignancy.”—Dr. Seth Graham, University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies

• “Everything about this remarkably engaging collection of essays—by turns poignant and funny, and deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking throughout—rings true, because it is true. At the heart of it, these keen ruminations on the nature of exile and an emigre’s discovery of America are unwaveringly authentic.”—Mikhail Iossel, Concordia University, Montreal (Canada)

• “Laughing All the Way to Freedom is Emil Draitser’s candid analysis of his ‘road to Americanization,’ which, as every immigrant knows, is always long and never straightforward. A satirist in Soviet Russia, Draitser intermingles his published pieces with his moving experiences in search of a new identity in the United States. With the skillful pairing of fiction and memoir, the book’s authenticity is hard-earned. A captivating read.—Elena Gorokhova, the author of A Train to Moscow

• “Poignant as it is warm and kind, generous to and appreciative of the country that gave him a new start in life, Draitser’s extraordinary immigration memoir reveals truths about the ways that culture shapes identity more than we can possibly know. The American-born readers will come to see their own culture and social mores from an outsider’s perspective. Distinctly individual, the memoir is convincingly universal and supportive of all those brave souls who make the journey to our shores, be they from Asia, Africa, or Latin America.”—Benjamin Rifkin, dean of the Maxwell Becton College of Arts and Sciences, Fairleigh Dickinson University