You Must Go and Win

Orlando Weekly | July 6, 2011
Black Soviet humor pervades this collection of essays by struggling musician Alina Simone. Born in Ukraine and raised in suburban Massachusetts, Simone realized early on that she and her parents, political refugees, didn't see things the same way. Difficulty in gym class, her tragic lack of a pony … to her father, a university professor sentenced to perform hard labor, or her grandmother, who survived the siege of Leningrad, it was as if she were "pointing out mushrooms from an airplane." But their loving support seems only to make Simone feel worse, instilling an inferiority complex bigger than Siberia that dogs her throughout the book.

Wry observations on Brooklyn sublets, the KGB and Britney Spears ramble past in a David Sedaris-meets-Gary Shteyngart morass of wise-ass, looping back and forth in time in a manner that recalls Simone's geographical traverses throughout years of touring in support of her micro-indie releases. The essays are short on establishing detail (for instance, her husband pops up only in rare and brief appearances) – this is decidedly not a memoir. In a chapter about her childhood friend Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), Simone seems to come face-to-face with the fact that she might not want to be a musician enough to succeed, while in "The Benefits of Self-Castration," she confronts total commitment. Each story is as quirky and personal as her songs, but like them, a bit samey. It's in the interactions with her parents that her writing gains traction; committing to an actual 
memoir might be less amusing but more honest.

Orlando Weekly

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