Skylarks and Rebels

A Memoir about the Soviet Russian Occupation of Latvia, Life in a Totalitarian State, and Freedom

Rita Laima

ibidem Press

Skylarks and Rebels

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Pub Date: September 2017

ISBN: 9783838210346

502 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $55.00

Pub Date: September 2017

ISBN: 9783838268545

502 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $37.99

Skylarks and Rebels

A Memoir about the Soviet Russian Occupation of Latvia, Life in a Totalitarian State, and Freedom

Rita Laima

ibidem Press

Skylarks and Rebels is a story about the fate of Latvia in the 20th century as told by Rita Laima. Laima, a Latvian-American, chose to leave behind the comforts of life in America to explore the land of her ancestors, which in the 1980s languished behind the Iron Curtain. In writing about her own experiences in a totalitarian state, Soviet-occupied Latvia, Laima delves into her family's past to understand what happened to her fatherland and its people during and after World War II. She also pays tribute to some of Latvia's remarkable people of integrity who risked their lives to oppose the brutal and destructive Soviet state.
Rita Laima has written a unique memoir that explores the experiences of the Latvian exile community during the Soviet era and the situation of Latvians in their Soviet-occupied homeland in the 1980s, as well as during the first decade of independence beginning in 1991. The author's strengths are her frankness and ability to draw conclusions. Laima describes how the post-World War II Latvian refugee's mentality developed outside of Latvia, and how a young woman with the Free World's mindset dealt with Soviet socialism and post-communist reality in Latvia. The author's escapades are supplemented with historical background notes, which enable the reader to grasp the context of events of her time in Latvia (1982–1999). Laima had the courage and strength to confront her own inherited notions of the fatherland with Latvia's real situation in the 1980s and 1990s. This memoir is not a nostalgic longing for the past but rather a truthful and sometimes harsh story about life in all its complexity and rich nuances, gleaned from the author's personal experience. Martinš Mintaurs, University of Latvia, Riga
Rita Laima has authored an eloquent and frequently riveting account of an extraordinary personal experience. Having made the choice to enter the prison-like society of Soviet Latvia as a young woman born and raised in the United States, she tries to comprehend, decades later, what attracted and fascinated her by the land of her parents and ancestors. What makes Laima's project especially valuable and enlightening is the skill with which she reintegrates the minutiae of daily life in Soviet Latvia within the broader context of the nation's history. By contrasting her observations and experiences in Soviet Latvia with what she knows and what she has grown to value in a free and democratic society, Laima brings to light the mindless, absurd, and dehumanizing colonizing process enveloping a once-independent nation and its people. Laima's artistic eye and sensitivity bring out the beauty of nature as well as that of musical, architectural, and other cultural achievements that both illustrate Latvia's rich and colorful past and its people's continuing creative potential. The tribute the author pays to all those who dedicated their efforts and lives to achieve independence can serve as an inspiration not only to those engaged in similar struggles around the globe but also to those who take it for granted. Karlis Racevskis, The Ohio State University

About the Author

Rita Laima is a published writer, translator, and children's book illustrator. Born in the United States to the children of refugees who settled in New Jersey, Laima was raised biculturally, speaking Latvian at home. After studying art at Parsons School of Design in New York City, she traveled to Latvia in 1982 and lived there for 17 years. During that time, she experienced life under Soviet communism, the Soviet Union's efforts to russify her ancestral country, Latvia's National Awakening, and its long-awaited independence from the USSR in 1991. Rita Laima currently lives in the Washington, DC area.