Thanksgiving All Year Round: A Memoir

Thanksgiving All Year Round: A Memoir

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Gavriel Shapiro

Series: Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
ISBN: 9781618115058 (hardcover) / 9781618115171 (paper)
Pages: 294 pp.; 57 illus.
Publication Date: August 2016

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This book first delves into the author’s ancestry, thereby providing a partial slice of Russian Jewish history. It then offers an individual perspective on what it meant to grow up in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of WWII. It also gives a personal account of the rise and development of Jewish national awareness. It next describes a struggle for the immigration to Israel in the late 1960s and the early 1970s through job loss, persecution, arrests, imprisonment, and trial. It further relates the author’s life in Israel, including his work at the Voice of Israel, study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and service in the Israel Defense Forces. Finally, it explores the author’s academic career in the United States, from the graduate school at the University of Illinois to professorship at Cornell University.

Gavriel Shapiro is Professor of Comparative and Russian Literature at Cornell University. His major publications include Nikolai Gogol and the Baroque Cultural Heritage (1993), Delicate Markers: Subtexts in Vladimir Nabokov’s “Invitation to a Beheading” (1998), (ed.) Nabokov at Cornell (2003), The Sublime Artist’s Studio: Nabokov and Painting (2009), and The Tender Friendship and the Charm of Perfect Accord: Nabokov and His Father (2014).

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration
List of Illustrations

1. Ancestry
2. Immediate Family
3. Growing Up in Postwar Soviet Russia
4. Emergence of National Awareness and the Struggle for Immigration to Israel
5. Arrest, Imprisonment, Trial, and Aftermath
6. Life in Israel
7. Graduate Studies in the United States
8. Living, Teaching, and Writing in America



The story of the struggle of Soviet Jews for self-determination and freedom of emigration is an account of global forces in collision. However, it is also the story of individuals with hopes and dreams and a willingness to risk all they have for the chance for self-fulfillment. Therefore, together with learned analyses of politics and policies, it is important to keep focus on the individual—and there is nothing like an autobiography to do this. Gavriel Shapiro’s Thanksgiving All Year Round is precisely such an account. It is full of fascinating detail, well based self-analysis, and also a fair degree of drama. It is a great read and a valuable introduction to a world that is thankfully gone. The fall of the Soviet Union was far from predictable in the seventies—and this book reminds us of the power of humanity to overcome obstacles that appeared to be insurmountable.
— Shaul Stampfer, Rabbi Edward Sandrow Professor of Soviet and East European Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Gavriel Shapiro’s academic reputation is enhanced by an impressive memoir of his life. It is fascinating to follow Shapiro’s account of his life trajectory from the rise of his Jewish identity in the assimilated family, to his struggle with the Soviet authorities for the right to emigrate, to his career as a nationally and internationally recognized literary scholar. Had these events been merely recorded, the book would already be gripping and compelling reading. In actuality, what makes the book even more meaningful is that the events are depicted, together with reflective interludes, allusions to contemporary political affairs, and bits of Jewish folklore, in the context of the history of Russian Jewry.
— Tatyana Novikov, Professor of Russian, University of Nebraska at Omaha
There’s no question in my mind that future historians will find themselves Thanksgiving the author of All Year Round. By meticulously recreating, with scholarly depth and comprehensiveness, his own fight for freedom and his further fate as a scholar and human being that took him to three continents, Professor Shapiro has produced an invaluable document of the epoch. So far, the Soviet Jewry struggle of breaking the bondage and for regaining human dignity hasn’t found a better chronicler.
— Emil Draitser, Professor of Russian, Hunter College, author of Shush! Growing up Jewish under Stalin
Written by one of the most notable representatives of the ‘third wave’ of Russian emigration, the memoirs cover the destinies of several generations of a remarkable Russian Jewish family. It will become a classic of memoir literature to be studied by all students of this burgeoning genre.
— Henrietta Mondry, Professor and Director of the Russian Program at University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Thanksgiving All Year Round is most appropriately named. It is the buoyant saga of an incorrigible optimist. Nothing daunted, Shapiro first flings himself against the all-powerful Soviet regime by which he is made to feel a misfit and then against the red-tape and apparent idiosyncrasies of the free societies to which he has escaped and where he is determined to make good. Written by a person with an obvious literary flair, Shapiro’s book provides manifestly authentic details of everyday life in the intellectual milieu of Moscow after Stalin and will be read avidly by students of Soviet society and of the Soviet Jewish movement.
— Yaacov Ro'i, Professor of Russian history emeritus, Tel Aviv University