burying the typewriter

This is the second book I won from the Goodreads Giveaway program. It’s apparently the year of the memoir for me! Carmen Bugan’s Burying the Typewriter is about her youth in Romania under the rule of austere dictator Ceaușescu in the 1970s and 80s. The book begins with lovely, descriptive imagery of Bugan’s childhood in a Romanian village. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells—the Black Sea; her grandmother’s cooking and her grandfather’s farm; the sleepy, peaceful country setting—are all vividly conveyed in Bugan’s poetic, lyrical writing. Her bonds with grandparents and siblings are beautifully profound. Eventually, Bugan and her sister discover evidence of their father Ion’s decades-long political dissent against the Communist government. When Ion is arrested after staging a one-man protest against Ceaușescu in Budapest one night, Bugan’s idyllic childhood is jarringly interrupted by oppressive interrogations and constant secret police surveillance. She is starved, she is separated from her mother and siblings, she is watched and harassed by neighbors and teachers. The family cannot trust anyone anymore, fearing old friends may now be government informants. Bugan and her family suffer the consequences of her father’s actions, however noble and well-intentioned for his countrymen they may have been.

I did enjoy this memoir very much, especially the early chapters. My only minor gripe is that I felt the ending is a bit abrupt. I would have liked to learn more about the family’s transition to life in the United States after Ion’s release from prison. Bugan does not whine about the injustices she faced in childhood or complain about her father’s selfishness. This is not a piece of partisan propaganda. Rather, the book has undertones of forgiveness and an overall innocent, sensitive nature: a child trying to understand the complicated world she was born into, and learning her parents were themselves individuals, possessed of personal aspirations and passions apart from family life.

Read from July 25 to 29, 2012.