2016 nonfiction finalist

Elena Gorokhova | Russian Tattoo

Elena Gorokhova

About the author
Born and raised in Leningrad, Russia, Elena Gorokhova came to the U.S. with one suitcase to start a new life at the age of twenty-four. Her first memoir A Mountain of Crumbs – a story of growing up behind the Iron Curtain – has been called “…a master class in memoir writing” by the New York Times Book Review, “a marvelous reminiscence” by Elle and “an enthralling read” by the Nobel Laureate in Literature J.M. Coetzee. She has a Doctorate in Language Education and currently lives and teaches in New Jersey. Visit her online at elenagorokhova.com.

About the book
Russian Tattoo is the journey of an immigrant who moves to the U.S. to join her American husband and escape her mother, a mirror image of the Soviet Motherland: overbearing, protective, and difficult to leave. The mother, a World War 2 front-line surgeon, arrives in New Jersey to help care for her infant granddaughter and stays for twenty-four years, ordering everyone in the house to eat soup and wear a hat, just as she did in Leningrad.

It is an exquisite story of three generations of strong women with very different cultural values, all living under the same roof and battling for control. As the narrator strives to bridge the gap between the cultures of her past and present, she comes to love the fierce resilience of her Soviet mother when she recognizes it in her American daughter.

Critics / Reviews
“Fluid and evocative prose. … An imaginative writer.”  — The Washington Post

“[Gorokhova] imbues this narrative of the gathering momentum of her assimilation with admirable esprit.”  — Elle

“[Gorokhova] provides readers with a fascinating glimpse into what it meant to fit into American society after growing up behind the Iron Curtain. … [A] worthwhile read.”  — Associated Press

“Full of vivid imagery and memorable description, this is a wonderful trip into existential bewilderment. … Russian Tattoo is compelling, colorful and hugely enjoyable.”  — The Guardian (UK)

“[Gorokhova fills] the pages with fresh metaphors about American culture.”  — Entertainment Weekly

“An exquisite memoir of emigrating from Russia. … A magnificent book, all the more notable because memoirs are common and rarely this wonderful.”  — The (NJ) Star Ledger

“Beautifully written.”  — The Jerusalem Post

“Every page sings with sharp, intelligent, often witty observations about her new, confusing life in America… Brilliant [and] illuminating.”  — BookPage