This sample Andrea Lee Essay is published for informational purposes only. Free essays and research papers, are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality essay at affordable price please use our custom essay writing service.
Lee has distinguished herself as a noteworthy journalist and novelist. In her nonfiction work Russian Journal (1981), she provides an insightful perspective on contemporary Soviet life, and in her novels, she recounts the lives of various women, many of them expatriates living in Europe.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Writing about Soviet Russia
The youngest of a Baptist minister’s three children, Lee was born in Philadelphia in 1953. She received an MA in English literature from Harvard University and has worked as a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine.
Her first book, Russian Journal, derives from a diary she kept in 1978 while in the Soviet Union, where her husband was studying for ten months on a fellowship. During a less intense phase of the cold war, the Soviet Union of the 1970s was a totalitarian communist country that wielded strict control over its citizens’ lives, from censored speech to government-controlled services. The United States maintained an antagonistic relationship to the Soviet Union as they both amassed military arms for a potential conflict, but relations relaxed somewhat during the 1970s and 1980s as the economic and social failures of the communist country eventually led to its fall in 1991.
Lee’s experience in the Soviet Union provided a rare look into a closed country. In her journal Lee wrote that, due to their circumstances, she and her husband ”got a view of life in Moscow and Leningrad that was very different from that of the diplomats and journalists we knew.”
Turning to Fiction Abroad
As if responding to critics’ charges that she avoided discussing race in her first book, Lee followed Russian Journal with Sarah Phillips, an episodic novel explicitly concerned with a contemporary black woman. With Russian Journal and Sarah Phillips Lee gained recognition as a talented writer of immense promise, but she did not publish other extended works of fiction for nearly twenty years. In 2002 she published Interesting Women: Stories, which follows twelve American women living abroad, and in 2006 she produced Lost Hearts in Italy, a story detailing a complicated romance taking place in several Italian cities. Lee lives in Turin, Italy.
Works in Literary Context
Lee’s Russian Journal fits into the genre of travel narratives, in which the traveler writes about experiences in an unfamiliar place. Travel writing generally focuses both on the differences in the foreign culture as much as it concentrates on the writer s status as outsider in a new location. As is evidenced in Lee s work, this kind of writing recognizes the tension inherent in the visiting experience as the writer navigates seeing new things while at the same time experiencing the phenomenon of being seen as different by locals. In her book, Lee describes meeting bureaucrats, dissidents, and even contraband sellers. She encounters many cynics and youthful materialists, observes a disturbing number of public drunks, and becomes acquainted with some of Russia’s more unsettling aspects, notably government surveillance.
In a coming-of-age story, the protagonist grows and changes over the course of the narrative in relationship to at least one conflict. Often, the central action of the book involves family or personal relationships, or, by contrast, an encounter with evil in the world. Lee s work in Sarah Phillips embodies these coming-of-age features. The title character is introduced as a woman who has grown disgusted with her boorish, racist acquaintances in Paris, where she has been living in self-exile. At the end of the first chapter, Sarah decides to leave Paris, and in the ensuing sections she recalls events— principally from childhood and adolescence—that have contributed to her present circumstances. Bored with America, Sarah leaves the country after her father s death and her graduation from college. She settles in Paris, but by novel’s end, Sarah realizes the emptiness of her assimilation into white society—both European and American—and reaches a greater understanding of herself and her heritage.
Works in Critical Context
Lee’s writing has earned her praise as a keen observer and a consummate technician, one whose probing insights are inevitably rendered with concision and grace. As Susan Richards Shreve notes in the New York Times Book Review, ”Andrea Lee’s authority as a writer comes of an unstinting honesty and a style at once simple and yet luminous.”
Following the publication of Russian Journal, critics cited the book as a refreshing, if narrow, perspective on Soviet life. Susan Jacoby called Lee’s book ”a subtly crafted reflection of both the bleak and golden shadings of Russian life” and added: ”The subject matter of this journal is highly idiosyncratic. … What Miss Lee offers are the people, places and experiences that touched her most deeply.” Like Jacoby, Peter Osnos cited the book’s achievement at ”conveying a feeling of place and atmosphere” and declared, ”Lee writes very well. There is a warmth and freshness about her style that makes reading [Russian Journal] effortless.” Osnos was especially impressed with Lee’s depiction of the Soviet people, particularly its younger citizens. ”What is best about the book—what distinguishes it from other books about the Soviet Union published in recent years—is her accounts of friendships with young people,” he said. Michael Irwin also found Lee an engaging reporter. He praised her ”astuteness” and called Russian Journal ”a considerable exercise in observation, empathy and personal and literary tact.”
- Goskowski, Francis. A Review of Sarah Phillips. Best Sellers 44, no. 11. (February 1985): 408.
- Irwin, Michael. Hidden Privilege.” London Review of Books (September 16-October 6, 1982): 20.
- Jacoby, Susan. ”One Year in Moscow.” New York Times Book Review (October 25, 1981): 11, 22.
- Osnos, Peter. ”Blue Jeans in Red Square: An American in Moscow.” Book World: Washington Post (October 25, 1981): 10.
- Shreve, Susan Richards. ”Unsentimental Journey.” New York Times Book Review (November 18, 1984): 13.
- Vigderman, Patricia. A Review of Sarah Phillips. Boston Review 10, no. 1 (February 1985): 23-24.
- Wyngarden, Bruce Van. Pieces of the Past.” Saturday Review 11, no. 1 (February 1985): 74.
Free essays are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom essay, research paper, or term paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price. UniversalEssays is the best choice for those who seek help in essay writing or research paper writing in any field of study.