cover of book

Farewell, Mama Odessa: A Novel
by Emil Draitser
Northwestern University Press, 2020
Paper: 978-0-8101-4108-7 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-4109-4
Library of Congress Classification PS3554.R187F37 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.54


Set in the summer of 1979 at the height of the movement to free Soviet Jewry, Farewell, Mama Odessa is an autobiographical novel whose intertwined storylines follow a variety of people—dissidents, victims of ethnic discrimination, and black-marketers among them—as they bid farewell to their beloved home of Odessa, Ukraine, and make their way to the West.

At the book’s center is Boris, a young writer thwarted by state censorship and antisemitism during the twilight years of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s sclerotic rule. With an Angora kitten for his companion and together with other émigrés, vulnerable, displaced, continually living out of a suitcase, he puts Russia in his rear-view mirror and sets out on a journey that will take him to Bratislava, Vienna, Rome, and New York on his way to Los Angeles.

Will Boris be able to rekindle his creative passion and inspiration in the West? Will other Jewish émigrés fit into the new society, so much different than the one they’d left behind? With humor and compassion, Farewell, Mama Odessa describes the émigrés' attempts at adjustment to the free world.


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