September 2017 Book Club Selection

In Europe's Shadow
Kaplan, Robert D.: In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond (2016)

Discussion: Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Jerry Gabay, 4238 SE Ash St in Portland, 541-578-0051. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Reviews: Romania was a journalistic backwater when the author’s bestselling Balkan Ghosts appeared in 1993. In this equally captivating sequel, veteran journalist Kaplan (Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, 2014, etc.) brings matters up to 2015. The Ukraine is across the border, Russia and the Middle East just beyond; all are hot spots putting increasing stress on Romania, which is making remarkable progress after 40 miserable years as a Soviet satellite following 10 as a Nazi ally. Its leader during the final 24 years of Soviet rule, Nicolae Ceaușescu, enjoyed praise from the free world for his independence from Moscow, but he ran a particularly oppressive and corrupt government, “nothing less than a very Latin-style tyranny, a blend of Joseph Stalin and Juan Perón in the underbelly of Eastern Europe.” His murder by revolutionaries in 1989 left an impoverished nation with no democratic traditions, a situation that Kaplan described vividly in Balkan Ghosts. Repeating his technique in this book, the author zigzags around the country and occasionally beyond, admiring the landscape, describing the cities (crumbling Stalinist architecture giving way to vast malls and apartment complexes, with the occasional jewel from earlier centuries), and interviewing government officials, surviving apparatchiks, intellectuals, historians, and fellow journalists. He seems to have read every novel, history, and scholarly work on his subject and quotes liberally, delivering a scattershot, often contradictory, and always entertaining avalanche of opinions on Romania’s history, national character, and worries (mostly, again, about Russia). Kaplan does not promote Romania, but he has written a journalistic tour de force that will convince readers that it’s a fascinating place whose people, past, and current geopolitical dilemma deserve our attention.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

December 2011 Book Club Selection

Bury Me Standing
Fonseca, Isabel: Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey (1996)

Our discussion took place: December 2011

Review: © Library Journal: Traveling as a journalist, Fonseca stayed with a number of Gypsy families in Eastern Europe between 1991 and 1995. Through her experiences with them, study of the scholarship about them, and interviews with leading figures, she has produced a contemporary account of their status, incorporating details of their society, culture, and history. Her work portrays their commitment to tribal traditions and adherence to ritual and offers good insights, particularly into women’s lives. The author regards Gypsies as “an ancient scapegoat” who survive through their traditions and a collective denial of their mistreatment by outsiders, including the Germans during World War II. The author details the discrimination that has kept the Gypsies, now often called Roma, from development of an identity and acceptance by the international community.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble