Karen Gilden’s powerful new release is as insightful as it is noteworthy. Leaving their comfortable middle-class lives for an extended tour of Europe, six weeks in the Soviet Union found Gilden’s family struggling with Soviet bureaucracy, and coming face-to-face with the KGB. Not a simple travelogue, ‘Camping with the Communists’ is a bold expose of life behind the Iron Curtain.
Sisters, OR -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/03/2013 -- In 1977, most American families were choosing to vacation on the sunny west coast of the United States or in Europe. While choosing the latter for a six-month getaway, Karen Gilden, her husband and their eleven-year-old daughter braved the most unlikely of excursions by deciding to spend six weeks in the Soviet Union.
Almost four decades after their return, Karen Gilden’s hundreds of photographs, hours of audiotapes and thousands of life-changing memories have been transposed into a fascinating and wholly unique memoir.
Synopsis of ‘Camping with the Communists: The Adventures of an American Family in the Soviet Union’:
During the 1970s about 20,000 Americans each year visited the Soviet Union on highly structured guided tours. Very few chose to travel there independently. And almost no U.S. tourists camped for six weeks, or drove 3,800 miles through the country commonly declared "our enemy." But the Gildens did.
If you’ve forgotten what it was like to live with MAD (mutually assured destruction) or if you suddenly find yourself missing the iron curtain, it’s time to join the Gildens as they struggle with the Soviet bureaucracy, come face to face with the KGB, steal toilet paper, smuggle a diamond, and say Nyet! to the border guards.
As Gilden explains, her book offers so much more than a straightforward travelogue.
“Readers will meet the enemy face to face; accompanying us on our journey as we venture into the country controlled by a regime that threatened instant annihilation of the United States. Though we travelled without a guide our movements were tightly-controlled. However, the ‘powerful enemy’ we imagined instead greeted us with poverty, impassable roads, construction that began decaying before buildings were completed, and a countryside without plumbing,” says Gilden.
Continuing, “It was an adventure that changed our lives in many ways. One of the reasons we visited the USSR was to show our young daughter how our global enemies are in fact just like us. However, the reality of the Soviet Union presented a very different picture. We could clearly see the stark differences between a totalitarian state and life in a free country, and we quickly came to realize that the Soviet people had dreams and ideas that were being quashed by their government, in an effort to protect their rigid and controlling system.”
The memoir’s gripping account of the Gildens’ trip also highlights the importance of pursuing travel in unlikely places—showcasing how Karen’s initial, unpopular idea to take a six-month trip led to months of intense research, as she studied Russian and convinced her family that including the Soviet Union in their journey was a realistic and worthy option for their trip.
While her book is long overdue, Gilden is confident that her family’s experience offer great insights into the image that modern-day Russia still presents to the rest of the world, and North America in particular.
“Russia remains, in many ways, a mystery to the west. It still holds itself aloof, still acts in ways that confuse or mystify the rest of us. Its leader, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, is still the authoritarian master, still, at heart, the KGB official he was when he was in charge of monitoring foreigners in Leningrad in 1977—the year we were there. This book is as timely now as it’s ever been,” she adds.
Gilden’s ‘Camping with the Communists: The Adventures of an American Family in the Soviet Union’, will inform, inspire, and expose the reality of 1977's Soviet Union in a way that no book has done before. Readers can look forward to buying their copy during the book’s launch in November.
For more information, visit: http://www.karengilden.com
About Karen Gilden, in her own words
I began writing as a freelancer in the late 70s, first as a regular contributor to Eugene, Oregon's weekly, the Willamette Valley Observer, and eventually for other publications: Oregon Business, the San Francisco Review of Books, the Denver Post, Chicago Tribune, and more. Eventually I made it into the pages of Family Circle (twice) and Seventeen (once) before the need for more income brought the writing to a staggering halt. Since then I have found other ways to indulge my vice, working as an editor/writer for a Eugene travel company, a designer/ editor at Portland’s Reed College, and a writer/editor/project manager for a Corvallis design company. In partnership with my husband, Ray, I wrote and published two books, How to Plan Your Trip to Europe (a workbook) in 1995 and Tea & Bee’s Milk: Our Year in a Turkish Village in 2008.