Political and economic perspectives should not dominate the analysis of communist rule. Analysis of the social aspects and results of communist rule are necessary to achieve a full understanding of the effects of such government. Slavenka Drakulic produced How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, an appealing work with this fresh social approach. This nonfiction work combines the author’s own recollections with the stories of other women of the Eastern Bloc.
Drakulic, a renowned journalist and writer, utilizes her keen eye for detail and truth in this quest that shows how communism has devastating effects on the common citizen. She provides insight into the conditions of life for women within a communist system. Several points of view from those living under such a regime are documented in this collection of 19 essays. The author highlights the unimportant aspects of life and how they are important as symbols of recurring injustice under this communist regime in Eastern Europe.
Her travels to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and East Germany result in adequate research of several personalities and experiences. This extensive research abroad, coupled with Drakulic’s own background experiences, provides a solid groundwork for the author’s thesis. However, any amount of research cannot surmount to the experiences Drakulic faced growing up with the lifestyle that comes with communist rule.
If she is discussing the perils of doing laundry or the conversation she had with her censor, Drakulic approaches each aspect of communist control with the same importance. Her stories focus on one topic at a time and colorful descriptions fill the pages. For example, Drakulic describes the influence her new doll had on her childhood ideas of the status of women:
…nobody told us why a doll (a girl, a woman)
had to be pretty. We just knew it had to be
so. We painted their little lips and nails bright
red, and dressed them in tight sexy dresses,
even if we didn’t know what it was all about…
Sometimes I think that...