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Winner of the Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, a childhood memoir of political oppression and persecution during Romania's Ceausescu years Carmen Bugan grew up amid the bounty of the Romanian countryside on her grandparent's farm where food and laughter were plentiful. But eventually her father's behavior was too disturbing to ignore. He wept when listening to Radio Free Euro Winner of the Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, a childhood memoir of political oppression and persecution during Romania's Ceausescu years Carmen Bugan grew up amid the bounty of the Romanian countryside on her grandparent's farm where food and laughter were plentiful. But eventually her father's behavior was too disturbing to ignore. He wept when listening to Radio Free Europe, hid pamphlets in sacks of dried beans, and mysteriously buried and reburied a typewriter. When she discovered he was a political dissident she became anxious for him to conform. However, with her mother in the hospital and her sister at boarding school, she was alone, and helpless to stop him from driving off on one last, desperate protest. After her father's subsequent imprisonment, Bugan was shunned by her peers at school and informed on by her neighbors. She candidly struggled with the tensions of loving her "hero" father who caused the family so much pain. When he returned from prison and the family was put under house arrest, the Bugans were forced to chart a new course for the future. A warm and intelligent debut, Burying the Typewriter provides a poignant reminder of a dramatic moment in Eastern European history.


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Winner of the Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, a childhood memoir of political oppression and persecution during Romania's Ceausescu years Carmen Bugan grew up amid the bounty of the Romanian countryside on her grandparent's farm where food and laughter were plentiful. But eventually her father's behavior was too disturbing to ignore. He wept when listening to Radio Free Euro Winner of the Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, a childhood memoir of political oppression and persecution during Romania's Ceausescu years Carmen Bugan grew up amid the bounty of the Romanian countryside on her grandparent's farm where food and laughter were plentiful. But eventually her father's behavior was too disturbing to ignore. He wept when listening to Radio Free Europe, hid pamphlets in sacks of dried beans, and mysteriously buried and reburied a typewriter. When she discovered he was a political dissident she became anxious for him to conform. However, with her mother in the hospital and her sister at boarding school, she was alone, and helpless to stop him from driving off on one last, desperate protest. After her father's subsequent imprisonment, Bugan was shunned by her peers at school and informed on by her neighbors. She candidly struggled with the tensions of loving her "hero" father who caused the family so much pain. When he returned from prison and the family was put under house arrest, the Bugans were forced to chart a new course for the future. A warm and intelligent debut, Burying the Typewriter provides a poignant reminder of a dramatic moment in Eastern European history.

30 review for Burying the Typewriter: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Reading this book it is easy to see that the author is more used to writing poetry than prose. The first section of the biography is outstandingly lyrical in it’s descriptions of a Romanian childhood. The story takes a darker turn as Carmen grows older and more aware of the activities of her parents, especially of her father. It is unusual to read about resistance activities through the eyes of a child, and the book really gives a sense of the total lack of innocence caused by the events that fo Reading this book it is easy to see that the author is more used to writing poetry than prose. The first section of the biography is outstandingly lyrical in it’s descriptions of a Romanian childhood. The story takes a darker turn as Carmen grows older and more aware of the activities of her parents, especially of her father. It is unusual to read about resistance activities through the eyes of a child, and the book really gives a sense of the total lack of innocence caused by the events that followed her father’s demonstrations of 1983. I’m not sure if the author maybe ran out of steam towards the end of the work, but I didn’t feel the section covering the release of her father and the aftermath of this was a totally finished piece. It seemed to lack the commitment of the earlier sections. Possibly this is just due to the subject matter. Over all a very interesting book, taken from an unusual perspective, and about a subject which does not seem to receive the coverage it maybe should in the media. Anyone with an interest in the post war eastern bloc, resistance movements or the collapse of communism in Europe really should read this biography.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This is a wonderful book about a terrible subject: life in a police state. The police state that Carmen Bugan had to endure was Ceausescu's Romania. The author was brought up in a small town or village in rural Romania. She described her idyllic childhood beautifully, as if through the eyes of a child. The idyll comes to an end when her father is arrested for demonstrating against the state. He is imprisoned, and the family is closely watched by members of Romania's 'secret' police, the Securitat This is a wonderful book about a terrible subject: life in a police state. The police state that Carmen Bugan had to endure was Ceausescu's Romania. The author was brought up in a small town or village in rural Romania. She described her idyllic childhood beautifully, as if through the eyes of a child. The idyll comes to an end when her father is arrested for demonstrating against the state. He is imprisoned, and the family is closely watched by members of Romania's 'secret' police, the Securitate. Microphones are installed into the walls of Carmen's family home. The family has to sleep without covering the windows so that the Securitate can keep an eye on them even at night. Carmen is victimised at school. Her life and those of the rest of the family collapse as the stress mounts up over the years. Her mother is forced by the Securitate to divorce her father. Eventually, her father is released from prison, but his movements are confined to places close to home. The family home becomes a sort of prison, in which all family members are subject to the intimidatory activities of the Securitate. It amazed me how much manpower the state was prepared to expend on harassing a single family. It also surprised me how much support the family received from their neighbours in their home town. Anyone offering help or even sympathy to an 'enemy of the state' risked becoming branded in the same way by the watchful Securitate. This superbly written book gives the reader a startling insight into the terrifying existence that people had to lead under Ceausescu. It is a brilliant exposition of how awful life behind the 'Iron Curtain' could be for anyone who expressed even the slightest criticism of the regime. At the same time, Ms Bugan demonstrates an innocent, joyous, yet certainly not naive, love of the country where she spent the first years of her life. I strongly recommend this to anyone whether or not they are interested in the 'Iron Curtain'. It is a beautifully told and moving story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Hale

    amazing, beautiful, haunting. a biographical testimony about life in communist Budapest and surviving torture after torture from a malicious regime. let me explain something first, this book was entirely engaging and pulled me in tight, that from the moment i started it, i could not put it down. i read this book in a matter of 3 days. if i didnt have children to watch, feed or clean, it would have pulled me in the long haul of the night, a worth while long haul of the night. carmen is a wonderful amazing, beautiful, haunting. a biographical testimony about life in communist Budapest and surviving torture after torture from a malicious regime. let me explain something first, this book was entirely engaging and pulled me in tight, that from the moment i started it, i could not put it down. i read this book in a matter of 3 days. if i didnt have children to watch, feed or clean, it would have pulled me in the long haul of the night, a worth while long haul of the night. carmen is a wonderful person, and her family has their beauty too. her fun loving granfather nicolai her beautifully spiritual grandmother anghelina, and her not afraid of no one spirited grandmother floarea also her mother, father and sister and younger "watermelon" brother. such beautiful descriptions, it was like i was there while the walls and phones were tapped, or when the chinese man came into the story. or your first love. i was there, i experienced it all while reading. the typewriter, the symbol of this famiy's fight for recognition and the suppression of oppression, plays a big part, and i can not believe the life it becomes in the story. how not only is it a symbol of the education, and the fun side of the type writer, the nostalgia and ability of it, BUT also what can truly be done on it. how typing words can set the story into faster motion. i am not one to give away the book, or give out any spoilers, but i do tell you this is an impotant read, there are no dragons or zombies or vampires, but their are monsters and heros. read it not only because its a wonderful book, but also a look back on recent history (to think all this was going on when i was just a child). i love this book, and would gladly read it again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I won this from the Goodreads giveaway. This book is actually a well written book, but I found it to be a rather slow read that didn't engage my interest. I was really excited to get it after reading the description of the book but in the end I just didn't enjoy it much at all. I think other people may enjoy it a lot more than I did, but I found myself forcing myself to read it through to the ending because it was one of the giveaway books and I had to review it. Overall, other readers may really I won this from the Goodreads giveaway. This book is actually a well written book, but I found it to be a rather slow read that didn't engage my interest. I was really excited to get it after reading the description of the book but in the end I just didn't enjoy it much at all. I think other people may enjoy it a lot more than I did, but I found myself forcing myself to read it through to the ending because it was one of the giveaway books and I had to review it. Overall, other readers may really love it but it just isn't the book for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lucie Novak

    Very interesting and rather shocking. I grew up in a communist country, but Czechoslovakia never had this sort of economic hardship, and I have not seen the political oppression quite a bad. It must have been in my early childhood, when Stalin was still alive. Romania I've this book is Stalinist. The whole story is gripping, like a fiction thriller, but it's real. If you want to understand totalitarian regimes, this is one for you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maryan

    I read this book after a peaceful walking pilgrimage in Romania in the summer of 2018. It was hard to imagine the terrible times of starvation, the betrayal of friends, the surveillance of families during the time of Communism under Nicolae Ceausescu (1968-1989). The author tells of her idyllic years raised in the Romanian countryside that become destroyed by the controls and restrictions of communism. Her father, a dissident, had typed anti-government pamphlets and had to bury the typewriter to I read this book after a peaceful walking pilgrimage in Romania in the summer of 2018. It was hard to imagine the terrible times of starvation, the betrayal of friends, the surveillance of families during the time of Communism under Nicolae Ceausescu (1968-1989). The author tells of her idyllic years raised in the Romanian countryside that become destroyed by the controls and restrictions of communism. Her father, a dissident, had typed anti-government pamphlets and had to bury the typewriter to hide his crimes against the state. He is imprisoned but released through the efforts of amnesty international. The family emigrates to the US and the author has the advantage of distance to tell her tale. She revisits her Romanian home after she completes the book where the realities of their lives make way into her adult consciousness. The family story is told from the perspective of a child so has an innocence and questioning that is endearing and chilling. The kind and generous Romanians I met who survived the Communist era did not dwell on it. A reading of this book brings understanding to their reluctance to revisit those times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Turner

    Recently I’ve started attending a book group run by my local Waterstones in an effort to read a wider variety of books and be a bit less of a “book snob”. Admittedly I’ve only attended one of the last three sessions but at least I’ve kept up with the reading and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the wide choice of books covered. So far I’ve been introduced to a fictional Oscar Wilde turned Sherlock Holmes and this little gem - Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police Recently I’ve started attending a book group run by my local Waterstones in an effort to read a wider variety of books and be a bit less of a “book snob”. Admittedly I’ve only attended one of the last three sessions but at least I’ve kept up with the reading and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the wide choice of books covered. So far I’ve been introduced to a fictional Oscar Wilde turned Sherlock Holmes and this little gem - Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police by Carmen Bugan. To give you a bit of background, Bugan is a Romanian-born American poet and this eye-opening work is an account of her childhood growing up under a totalitarian ruled Romania. Her father, Ion Carmen, was already known to Romania’s secret police, having spent years in prison for having previously publicly protested against Ceausescu’s regime. Despite now having a family to look after Ion remained unperturbed. He acquired two typewriters - one which he had registered his fingerprints for as required by Romanian law and the other which he secretly buried away in his back garden (to be used in the production of propaganda). This seemingly small decision would change his and his family’s lives forever, forcing Carmen to grow up quickly and spend a large part of her childhood without her parents or home comforts (at least, whatever home comforts were available in Romania at that time). Not only is Bugan’s poetic background evident in her excellently written prose, but the style in which she writes leaves you with a strong empathy for her younger self and her plight, as well as amazement at her composure and maturity despite her young age. What was incredibly shocking for me was her father’s rationale - his belief that his family’s suffering as a result of his own actions was justified by the fact that he was working for a greater good. Her intimate style leaves you feeling that this book is an exclusive discourse between you and her, so much so that by the time she was informed by a member of the American embassy that she was finally under international protection I literally had tears in my eyes. Books like this reaffirm my reason behind attending book clubs in the first place. I would never have picked up Burying the Typewriter of my own accord simply because I hadn’t heard of it and personally I find it difficult to find my way through the maze of autobiographies on display in book shops unless they’re obvious celebrity ones. I certainly feel lucky to have found Carmen’s autobiography and consider it a valuable addition to my bookshelves - I’ve even been looking into some of her poetry. A must-read for anyone looking for something enlightening and offering perspective on a completely different way of life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Helen Stanton

    Slightly disappointed by this. Obviously the account of life in communist Romania was fascinating but I found her writing style a little tedious

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laila Kanon

    *Book Club *Will reread and recommend. I didn't expect to be teary as I read this book but towards the end of the book, I did. I think I can identified on how hard it was to say goodbye to one's country, one's memory of home and to leave in such a circumstance and one's resignation on accepting: it is what it is. This author is born to write, her prose and how brilliantly she woven words into a beautiful tapestry like the one hanging on her family living room back in Romania. I don't know much abo *Book Club *Will reread and recommend. I didn't expect to be teary as I read this book but towards the end of the book, I did. I think I can identified on how hard it was to say goodbye to one's country, one's memory of home and to leave in such a circumstance and one's resignation on accepting: it is what it is. This author is born to write, her prose and how brilliantly she woven words into a beautiful tapestry like the one hanging on her family living room back in Romania. I don't know much about Romania but now I'm more or less enlightened by reading this book. My take on this book: Socialism and Communism didn't work then and won't work now and it's ironic that socialism actually have sway among the younger generation in the West. Seriously? Read history and tell me if the mass casualty of lives and properties destroyed had any indication the destructiveness of socialism to humanity. This book (among many) is a great testimony of the harshness of life under socialism.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mairead

    Wow, that's some story!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna Wessel Walker

    An excellent description of the author's life as rhe child of dissidents in Romania under Ceausescu. She maintains the perspective of her childhood self and so gives the sense of what price she paid as well as the price her parents paid for their activities.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book really surprised me. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but there was something about the title that caught my eye when I saw it on the list of giveaways at goodreads, and the story sounded interesting enough, and I was glad to read it when it arrived in the mail. What surprised me was how quickly I was sucked into the story of Carmen Bugan's childhood, and how beautifully written it is. As another reviewer mentioned, it's easy to see that the author is more of a poet than a novelist. This book really surprised me. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but there was something about the title that caught my eye when I saw it on the list of giveaways at goodreads, and the story sounded interesting enough, and I was glad to read it when it arrived in the mail. What surprised me was how quickly I was sucked into the story of Carmen Bugan's childhood, and how beautifully written it is. As another reviewer mentioned, it's easy to see that the author is more of a poet than a novelist. The words just flow that easily and lyrically as she describes the beautiful and not-so-beautiful memories. Mostly they are happy memories, at least until she and her sister become aware of her father's activities. Those later, knowing years make up the lion's share of this book, of her relationship with her family, and how they survive after her father is taken away. One thing I really admired about this book is how honest Carmen was, at least in her thoughts (if slightly less so in conversations with her family) about her feelings about her father's actions. History might well remember him as an historic figure for his protests against the Romanian government, and it's clear to the reader that that's how he chooses to look at himself, but he seems to forget what his family went through. It would be easy for Carmen, in writing this, to make her father out to be a saint, but instead she shows the anger that I found that I felt for him myself. The book slows down in the last chapter or so, and I think it's because the author's POV in those parts is as an adult, rather than her childhood and teenaged memories. The appendix leaves something to be desired as well, but since this is an uncorrected proof that I received, maybe there's more information there in the final version - I hope so. I would definitely be interested in a book by her about the life of her family after emigration, I hope she will write that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Therese

    Read for CLPL "Real World Reads" non-fiction book club for July 2013. I read it early because July might be a very busy month. I really enjoyed this book! It is a memoir by Carmen Bugan about her time growing up as a child in Romania during the Ceausescu regime. If you did not know that she wrote poetry, you could guess it once you start reading the book. She does not really write as an adult looking back with mature observations, but writes the memoir in a way that makes you feel the same emotio Read for CLPL "Real World Reads" non-fiction book club for July 2013. I read it early because July might be a very busy month. I really enjoyed this book! It is a memoir by Carmen Bugan about her time growing up as a child in Romania during the Ceausescu regime. If you did not know that she wrote poetry, you could guess it once you start reading the book. She does not really write as an adult looking back with mature observations, but writes the memoir in a way that makes you feel the same emotions and sensations she did as a child. The thoughts and observations grow up as she does in the memoir. It takes place primarily in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in Romania, and ends with her immediate family's arrival in the U.S. (Michigan), with an afterward written in the early 2000s. Although her father was a political activist, you do not find out too much about this until later, because she did not know about it until later, so you have a kind of sweet and naive veil over your eyes while reading the book, the same that she did as a child. It is written with such beautiful descriptions that it really makes you long for those simpler times, with pure enjoyment of flowers, making bread, canning vegetables and fruits, small village life, the kindness of grandparents, and so on. And as she becomes more and more repressed and goes through more and more hardships because of the government and her father's rebellious actions, you see the tragedies but do not feel depressed because of her lyrical writing. I would definitely recommend this book! It is wonderfully written, a quick read (I read it in two sittings), and looks at what could be a depressing and horrible time with the simple and joyful eyes of a child, surrounded by her loving grandparents, and enjoying every moment of life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    I won this book from the First Reads giveaway. Thanks! Burying the Typewriter was not what I expected. I assumed it would be faster paced, with more drama and intrigue. It turned out to be more of a stylistic look at the author's childhood. It was a beautiful read. There were several people that stood out apart from Bugan herself. I loved the foul-mouthed grandmother, the priest who "unknowingly" destroyed some equipment the government was using to spy on the family, and Bombonica, the protective I won this book from the First Reads giveaway. Thanks! Burying the Typewriter was not what I expected. I assumed it would be faster paced, with more drama and intrigue. It turned out to be more of a stylistic look at the author's childhood. It was a beautiful read. There were several people that stood out apart from Bugan herself. I loved the foul-mouthed grandmother, the priest who "unknowingly" destroyed some equipment the government was using to spy on the family, and Bombonica, the protective dog.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shellie

    I received an ARC of this book from firstreads. I think the writing is top-notch, but I must confess that I was bored for almost the first half of the memoir. I tried to enjoy the bits of Romanian culture, but I had to force myself to return to it after setting it down repeatedly in favor of fiction. Finally, when Carmen's father buried the typewriter almost halfway into the book the conflict was unleashed and I was interested. I don't think I needed the tidbits from the author's life before she I received an ARC of this book from firstreads. I think the writing is top-notch, but I must confess that I was bored for almost the first half of the memoir. I tried to enjoy the bits of Romanian culture, but I had to force myself to return to it after setting it down repeatedly in favor of fiction. Finally, when Carmen's father buried the typewriter almost halfway into the book the conflict was unleashed and I was interested. I don't think I needed the tidbits from the author's life before she turned twelve. Good writing still needs to give readers a reason to return.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Queenmangin

    Beautiful treasure of a book. The writing was simple and clean yet drew so many pictures. No word was wasted. Not only could I see what was being described but I could smell and taste and hear it too like the fried potatoes, prison chains, the gardens... All the characters came to life for me. Both the glorious bounty of everything good before and the suffering after were so well captured by the "child" writing the story. And evermore, I am sure, when things are difficult I will tell myself: "Mî Beautiful treasure of a book. The writing was simple and clean yet drew so many pictures. No word was wasted. Not only could I see what was being described but I could smell and taste and hear it too like the fried potatoes, prison chains, the gardens... All the characters came to life for me. Both the glorious bounty of everything good before and the suffering after were so well captured by the "child" writing the story. And evermore, I am sure, when things are difficult I will tell myself: "Mîna căii, Necolai."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    What a great book from the Goodreads giveaways! It's an engrossing, evocative memoir about growing up in an oppressive country, but only realizing it as such as one grows older. Bugan's crisp explorations into her coming to a sort of peace with her father's political actions, which affected her and the family in such an unexpected-to-him way, is what's so ultimately compelling about this memoir.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan Novicki

    I enjoyed this book. Did not enjoy the writing. A little bit choppy but a great story. You don't often hear about a dissident's family in a communist dictatorship and how they deal with difficult situations while the dissident is in prison. Fascinating story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Funnell

    If 6 stars were possible!!!! It is fitting that I finish this book on what would have been my late Grandfather’s birthday. Romanian born (Braila) he fled the country before communism took hold. Married a Welsh woman and settled in London where I eventually came into being in 1983. He had a massive part to play in my upbringing and the Romanian culture depicted in this wonderful book echoes in my heart. The family life, the food, the humour - each page was like speaking to my dear grandfather agai If 6 stars were possible!!!! It is fitting that I finish this book on what would have been my late Grandfather’s birthday. Romanian born (Braila) he fled the country before communism took hold. Married a Welsh woman and settled in London where I eventually came into being in 1983. He had a massive part to play in my upbringing and the Romanian culture depicted in this wonderful book echoes in my heart. The family life, the food, the humour - each page was like speaking to my dear grandfather again. This book is so beautifully written and speaks into the reality of communism. A system that I fear is creeping back into the popular psyche of those too young and/or naive to understand its horror. Some of my favourite lines; P89 ‘This is what you call a fight for existence Carmen. The Gypsies want food and the Police make a living by beating the Gypsies so they can get food for themselves. You must have higher ideals in life, you must see beyond your belly, look what happens in the bread queues every day.’ But mum didn’t agree with dad at all: “look at you and me at our work at the shop! That is also called a fight for existence. You can’t have any big ideals on an empty stomach. You talk like this because you keep a loaf of bread for the town mayor and for the policeman so you don’t have to fight with them like the gypsies. There is nothing I see here other than the fight for existence, don’t look down on anyone.” All I can think of is that I would rather go hungry than get beaten up the way the gypsies did. P95 As days go by and he continues to breathe, I come to fear for him less and I beg mum to name him Catalin, a name from Eminescu’s poem about a distant star that fell in love with a beautiful mortal girl named Catalina. I decide that my brother should be earthly, beautiful, and innocent as the blonde, rosy cheeked Catalina, because the life of the genius, the outcast thinker is a lonely one. I want him to love the Earth and the forests and food so he can live without suffering. P109 “Carmen Bugan, go immediately to the teachers office!” Announces the literature teacher gravely. She just burst enjoying the maths class. My stomach turns into a knot so fast it hurts. She is stiff and quiet until the door to the office closes and only the two of us are inside. Then she takes from her handbag a huge slice of bread, a few thick slices of salami and cheese. “Eat, do not speak a word now or to anyone,” she says. She has tears in her eyes as she goes to listen at the door for anyone coming down the hall. I obey and I eat. Tears and food taste so good together. Then she brushes the crumbs from my uniform, wipes my eyes, and takes me back to the maths class. P 121 I am convinced that in great despair God offers us little moments of fast-forwarding in time so we will be reassured that life is worth the struggle. P 147 “Walls have ears, walls have ears, walls have ears, we keep writing to each other; be careful walls have ears” P 164 Not much else has changed, except the peaches, which grow outside my window, Big, Juicy, Orange-red coloured flesh bursting from between the leaves as if to declare to the whole insane, punishing world, look how beautiful I am. I can break your heart just with the glow of my skin. Every year that they come out I think to myself, nothing can stifle the will to live. No amount of suffering will stop a peach from growing, just as nothing, no hunger or punishment can stop a child from smiling. Dad’s postcards from prison continue to arrive sometime in Spring and we continue to visit him in August, each birthday or holiday we cry and wonder when he will come home. P196 “Do you think in America the dogs run around with bagels on their tails? You’ll be digging in the dust with the rest of the immigrants building roads and bridges for the fat rich Americans and you’ll be scrounging for the cheapest piece of meat you can find in their supermarkets –they’ll feed the dogs before they’ll feed you. You stupid people! There is no honour in living in another man’s backyard” P 222 My father is not interested in such files, I understand him. But I want to peer into our ‘second inheritance’ because this is who we are, the way ‘we who we say we are’ and the ‘we who they say we are’.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Claudia -

    This is a moving memoir of growing up in socialist Romania in the spotlight of the Securitate, the Romanian secret police. The book starts describing an idyllic life in a small village seen through a child’s eye, days full of fun and stories, Carmen and her sister being looked after by their beloved grandmother among the plenty of their farm. As she gets older, Carmen becomes more and more aware of the difficulties, food shortages and power cuts the villagers face and the growing frustration of h This is a moving memoir of growing up in socialist Romania in the spotlight of the Securitate, the Romanian secret police. The book starts describing an idyllic life in a small village seen through a child’s eye, days full of fun and stories, Carmen and her sister being looked after by their beloved grandmother among the plenty of their farm. As she gets older, Carmen becomes more and more aware of the difficulties, food shortages and power cuts the villagers face and the growing frustration of her parents. When one day her father snaps and leaves to openly protest against the government, life changes dramatically. Carmen’s father is sentenced to years of prison and back home the family is subjected to daily interrogations and surveillance, reprisals even for friends, neighbours and visitors. A happy childhood turns into years of psycho-terror by the secret police. It is fascinating to get the view not of the dissident but of his family, the victims of his political actions and it poses uncomfortable questions. Is it more important to toe the line and to protect your family or to sacrifice your nearest and dearest for long-term political vision. Is this selfish or heroic? The story is told in beautiful, simple language that makes sounds, tastes and smells come to life. While I found the first part of the book a bit slow going, the second half is a real page-turner, leaving me grateful for my privileged and peaceful upbringing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Martin Budd

    A great read. Life under the totalitarian regime of the Ceausescu's in Romania. As a boy I remember the visit by the Ceausescu's on a State visit to the U.K, our poor Queen having to tolerate them with all due pomp and ceremony. She let it be known (something highly unusual for Her Majesty) that She found them appalling - at one point She even hid behind a tree as She heard them walking in the palace garden. Her servants even having to hide the silver that they kept trying to purloin. One take a A great read. Life under the totalitarian regime of the Ceausescu's in Romania. As a boy I remember the visit by the Ceausescu's on a State visit to the U.K, our poor Queen having to tolerate them with all due pomp and ceremony. She let it be known (something highly unusual for Her Majesty) that She found them appalling - at one point She even hid behind a tree as She heard them walking in the palace garden. Her servants even having to hide the silver that they kept trying to purloin. One take away from this book -any individual or family that lives under a totalitarian regime will pay a price. Either the pain and anguish of victimisation and thuggery by the State for seeking to resist it or by a stricken conscience and destruction of self esteem by acquiescence with the State. No-one escapes with impunity. We had a family friend who smuggled Bibles into Romania in the '60's and 70's. He said that there was deep sadness that the securitate even were able to make pastors inform on their flocks - by blackmail and thuggery. Carmen is a deeply perceptive and compassionate author, in the last chapters she reveals the discovery, many years later of a very close family member who informed on them. A very bitter-sweet but precious read. Recommended

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robby

    A beautifully rendered book of both turmoil and childhood joy. I found the first many chapters about her early childhood years - when she was a rambunctious child that couldn’t even yet imagine the darkness to befall her family - those chapters were given much time and pagination, creating an almost idyllic framing to the story. Of course, we are increasingly hit with the signs of governmental control as the book continues, and as the author’s age reaches into the double digits, the book skates A beautifully rendered book of both turmoil and childhood joy. I found the first many chapters about her early childhood years - when she was a rambunctious child that couldn’t even yet imagine the darkness to befall her family - those chapters were given much time and pagination, creating an almost idyllic framing to the story. Of course, we are increasingly hit with the signs of governmental control as the book continues, and as the author’s age reaches into the double digits, the book skates across large expanses of time with many fewer details. In this, there’s an unevenness to the book, though I can imagine that those years are painful to recall, and perhaps due to the fact that this book is not meant to serve as a formal charge against the government in legal precedings, I can appreciate the approach taken. The book gives us some of the author’s most tender and intimate subjective experiences in those years, and those are the most touching aspects of the book, to me. I highly recommend.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Oana

    I was put off initially by the folkloric descriptions, but as I got deeper into the book, I understood that this was meant to present the idyllic before to the dystopic after. As a former Romanian refugee, I saw some things that matched my family's experiences and others that were more horrifying. A racist I know recently told me that refugees should just toughen up and fight injustice in their countries instead of coming to his country (as if white people in North America can say they legitimat I was put off initially by the folkloric descriptions, but as I got deeper into the book, I understood that this was meant to present the idyllic before to the dystopic after. As a former Romanian refugee, I saw some things that matched my family's experiences and others that were more horrifying. A racist I know recently told me that refugees should just toughen up and fight injustice in their countries instead of coming to his country (as if white people in North America can say they legitimately "own" this country). He is a good candidate for reading this to understand how much the cards are stacked against freedom fighters in police states. Of course, he will never read this. But you can and then be more understanding of what happens in "those" countries.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Syrdarya

    Carmen Bugan, a poet and child of Romanian dissidents, writes about her childhood and how her family ended up leaving Romania while it was still ruled by Ceauşescu. I was a bit dissatisfied because her childhood sounded pretty ideal in the early years and we never find out how her parents ended up resisting the communist regime or why. I found the same lack of description in a documentary about Ceauşescu's last few years. How did everything lead up to them starving the people and oppressing them Carmen Bugan, a poet and child of Romanian dissidents, writes about her childhood and how her family ended up leaving Romania while it was still ruled by Ceauşescu. I was a bit dissatisfied because her childhood sounded pretty ideal in the early years and we never find out how her parents ended up resisting the communist regime or why. I found the same lack of description in a documentary about Ceauşescu's last few years. How did everything lead up to them starving the people and oppressing them so much?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    An interesting memoir by the daughter of a Romanian dissident. While we admire and champion those who dare to speak up against the injustices of a Communist regime, there is seldom a thought about their family. They are the subjects of hardship and rejection because of decisions that were not their own. Here the author tries to come to grips with her conflicting feelings for a loving father she remembers from her early years and the snubs, judgments and surveillance the family endures after her An interesting memoir by the daughter of a Romanian dissident. While we admire and champion those who dare to speak up against the injustices of a Communist regime, there is seldom a thought about their family. They are the subjects of hardship and rejection because of decisions that were not their own. Here the author tries to come to grips with her conflicting feelings for a loving father she remembers from her early years and the snubs, judgments and surveillance the family endures after her father is imprisoned for demonstrating against policies of the Ceausescu regime.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elda Mengisto

    I liked this book! When describing her childhood and adolescence, Carmen uses somewhat sentimental language, especially when describing her little garden and family. It does get darker, but the overall vibe is like a fairytale of sorts. There's a lot on departing and leaving, which Carmen also describes beautifully. Simultaneously, I would've liked a longer book...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vivien

    Excellent thought-provoking book. The beginning describes an idyllic rural childhood but once the security services get involved because of the author's father's political activities it becomes extremely sinister. Whole communities living in fear and informing on each other is beyond my comprehension but it is well described. The family lived through hell but came through it all - amazing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Devoured this memoir.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    A necessary book by a powerful, skilled, honest writer. Written against the silence.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kam

    How hard it is to leave a country even one as repressive as Romania was. A look at the country and the joys and sorrows that exist in family.

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