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Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina
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Riot Days

by Maria Alyokhina

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Maria Alyokhaina presents her first person account of a slice of modern history that many outside Russia heard about only by following sporadic headlines. The key incident and its aftermath form the organizing thread through this impressionistic narrative.

The Prologue to this book made me worry that this would be nothing but a self indulgent screed about modern Russia under Vladimir Putin. Chapter One did nothing to change my mind. The book progresses in episodic bursts, with headings that may or may not explain the text to follow, with occasional little line drawings of objects or places. The women of Pussy Riot were revolutionaries, just ask them. The lyrics to their songs, laid out in the text, are harsh and coarse.

After a few chapters, though, I’d been drawn in by Alyokhina’s descriptions of musical protests by Pussy Riot, the subsequent trial of some of the members, and the aftermath of their convictions. It’s quite a story.

The Putin-bashing continues throughout, but a context unfolds for the author’s anger and distrust of her country’s government. She writes with humor and irony of her journey through modern Russia. The headlines did not do justice to the experiences of these young women who used their music to promulgate the free speech denied by the government they resent and distrust. ( )
  LNDuff | Feb 23, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Rise and shine, ladies!" shouts the warden in a voice that used to be a woman's, and bangs on the iron door with an iron key.

Maria Alyokhina was a member of the punk group Pussy Riot, and one of the women who performed their song Punk Prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Along with a few others, she went into hiding, but was eventually arrested, tried and sent to prison in a part of Russia that was formerly used for the gulag. Riot Days is her account of that time and it's fantastically punk to its core. Alyokhina is fiercely devoted to resisting Putin's dictatorship and she is uncompromising in her unwillingness to comply or keep quiet. Even her time in various prison camps is marked by her determination to protest and to improve conditions for the people around her.

Her memoir is told in the form of short segments. From the beginning, as they plan various performances - performances that were necessarily short and unannounced - she is both scared and determined. And as the state takes action against them, she clearly describes what is happening and the dire conditions she and the other prisoners live in, but she never complains or fails to stand up for those around her. We should all have her clear convictions and sheer perseverance. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Feb 22, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had known about the Pussy Riot girls for years, and was very excited to read this book. It is very dry and Maria's writing style can be seen as tough to get through, but she's honest, direct and heartfelt through her writing. I saw another ER say it was like machine gun fire, and that's an excellent way of putting it. It's a book that needs to be read, understood and to be an example of what crazy Putin is doing. READ THIS BOOK! ( )
  kristincedar | Dec 18, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Riot Days by Maria (Masha) Alyokhina of Pussy Riot is a fast, grim read about Alyokhina's two-years behind bars as punishment for their two-minute performance of "Punk Prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In Riot Days, she chronicles the days that lead up to the protest-performance, the days after, during which the band goes into hiding, her arrest, the trial, and her stay at two different facilities, one in Perm and one in Nizhny Novgorod.

In a way, her incarceration is a sort of education in prisoner rights and human rights, as Alyokhina goes from fearful submission to every search to resistance and demands of better treatment and better conditions for herself and the other prisoners. The results are mixed: prisoners are given shawls, better mattresses, etc., but some are held back from release due to their association with Alyokhina or punished for befriending her.

The prison days are grim. In contrast, the trial is (unfortunately) comical and absurd. It is a testament to the weakness of human nature for self-righteousness and moral superiority. It is a testament to the rise of religious extremism (for ordinary people to feel superior over others and for powerful people to manipulate the ordinary people to gain yet more power) once again.

Alyokhina's writing is crisp and urgent, though she never really loses her sense of humor, which provides some relief in the most desperate moments. The book is organized in short blurbs, each blurb providing the headline for the next one. Having not really followed the details of the Pussy Riot saga when it happened, I learned some new things, especially about the motivation for the protest. What she does not discuss in the book is how apt the choice of location was for the protest, because the cathedral in question has a long history that follows the rise and fall of various ideologies in Russia (it goes something like: first built as a cathedral in the late 1800s, then demolished by Stalin, then was going to be some giant Soviet structure, was interrupted by WWII, so sat there as a giant hole for a while, then was made into a pool during the Cold War, which was then closed and sat there empty for a while, and then the new cathedral was built as a replica of the old cathedral, using reinforced concrete [like a garage would be] complete with a VIP elevator to the high altar for the new powers of Russia [this, my partner tells me she learned from her research about the pool...])

Riot Days is an invaluable look into the notorious penal structure of Russia and a testament to the value of resistance.

Recommended for those who like dough, sanitary napkins, cigarettes, borscht, shawls, button holes, and, of course, cathedrals.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  bluepigeon | Nov 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I remember reading about Pussy Riot in the newspaper and Putin dismissing them as a young girl band looking for publicity, "hooligans". Riot Days, written by one of the group, tells a very different story.
The layout of the book is unusual. There are protest song lyrics interspersed with the narrative and rather crude drawings. Although the lyrics in the book are in translation, their poetry comes through.
They were not just a band. As she describes it, it was more performance art attacking Putin. They chose to do a performance in a church and that brought the government and the church down upon them. Alyokhina and another girl were arrested, convicted and sent to penal colonies. She describes in detail the daily life there and how she continued to fight for prisoner rights.
It is a fascinating book telling her personal story against a background of bureaucratic inefficiency and cruelty. ( )
  Oregonreader | Nov 5, 2017 |
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Neither Fish nor Fowl

('Neither cunt, nor the Red Army')

- Old Russian saying
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The summer was over.
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