Skip to content

Book Review of I Named My Dog Pushkin, by Margarita Gokun Silver


I Named My Dog Pushkin, by Margarita Gokun Silver, is subtitled    And Other Immigrant Tales, and antidoted “notes from a soviet girl on becoming an American woman.” If this doesn’t entice you to read this delightful book, reading the back cover will whet your curiosity. Silver’s book is more than memoirs. She writes in the fashion of short topical essays that are mostly the sequential memories of an idealistic, intelligent young woman with romantic aspirations.

Silver labels herself as “homo sovieticus”. Although born in Russia she is not considered Russian because her family roots are Jewish. She begins her tale by relating her fascination with all things American. Especially Levi’s. And fantasizes about her family emigrating to the Promised Land where she can become rich and famous.

Silver, her father, mother, and grandfather were able, through bribery, taking chances, a great deal of planning, and good luck to obtain exit visas with America as their final destination. Told with wit and footnotes to explain Russian terminology and customs, the reader gains insight into the life of a young immigrant as she tries to adapt to her life’s dream.

In her introduction, Silver explains how she arrived at the title of her book. After living for sixteen years in the United States, she and her family return to Russia for employment. At her daughter’s insistence, she got a small Maltese dog and named him Pushkin after one of Russia’s most famous poets. She quickly learned that this was “so disrespectful,” especially when she had to scold him by calling his name to reprimand him for raising his leg. She was made to feel like the worst emigrant ever.

With this introduction, the author jumps right into sharing her thoughts and emotions about living in a communist country and the cultural traditions she lived with. Through numerous footnotes, she is able to clarify some of the many discrepancies she discovered between the two cultures as she tries to her chosen identity. She also translates and explains Russian language and terminology.

 Although much of her story could be considered a “coming of age” tale, it is much more. Silver continues her sequence of essays with short stories that involve raising her American daughter while trying not to become her Russian mother. The contrast and complexities are often humorous and insightful.

This book would be excellent reading for high school and college courses that emphasize examining cross-cultural dynamics.



No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options