Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex

READ THE WORLD – Ukraine: Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko

Translated by Halyna Hryn. Narrated by Angela Dawe.

I had go to Goodreads to get a synopsis because I really wasn’t sure how to sum up this book, so here we go:
Narrated in first-person streams of thought, the female narrator is visiting professor of Slavic studies at Harvard and her exposure to American values and behaviours conspires with her yearning to break free from Ukrainian conventions. In her despair over a recently ended affair, she turns her attention to the details of her lover’s abusive behaviour. In detailing the power her Ukrainian lover wielded over her, and in admitting the underlying reasons for her attraction to him, she begins to see the chains that have defined her as a Ukrainian woman.

Honestly not sure what to make of Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex. I listened to it on audio and I’m not sure if that helped or hindered my experience of reading it. The narrative seemed to jump back and forth in time with no real clear signposts as to where we were in the main characters life. It’s a rambling narration of her thoughts and feelings about love, relationships, and what it means to be Ukrainian. It’s hard to keep up while listening to the audio so I have no idea if it’d be easier to follow if physically reading it.

Also, while the Goodreads synopsis say it’s in first-person, sometimes the stream of thought goes into second or third person as well which can make things more confusing. Though I suppose it’s also a way to show the narrators distance from some of her life experiences, or she’s reliving them in her memory and can now have a different take on events due to her new understanding of herself or the situation.

The discussions about being Ukrainian and the culture and history and language was one of the most interesting parts of Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex to me. It was a way to learn about a country that had its struggles and a culture of fear and repression and how that affected its people, especially women. Then seeing the differences between life in America and Ukraine and how it opens the narrator’s eyes to a new way of thinking was interesting too. She experiences a clash of cultures and it makes her rethink her relationship and how it wasn’t good for her for a number of reasons.

The sex scenes and musing on sex is graphic a lot of the time. She uses harsh and sometimes vulgar language to describe the act and it can be uncomfortable to listen to, not only because of the sexual content but how she sees herself when it comes to sex. It’s in those scenes that it’s really clear that her relationship isn’t a good or healthy one and the way her partner treats her, during sex and generally, is not OK. From this relationship she has an almost warped sense of self that she’s then re-examining once she’s out of it in relation to culture and heritage.

Much like The Naked Woman, I feel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex could do from being a book read with others so you can then discuss it. There’s a lot of themes in it but the stream of conscious narrative along with the random time jumps makes it difficult to follow and appreciate what this novel was trying to say.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s what books we plan to read this Spring (and what with this coronavirus stuff, I might actually read all of these in the next few months if I can’t leave the house). The first five books are all audiobooks I’ve recently purchased. I go through phases of buying audiobooks – especially when there’s offers on – and they’re all for my Read the World Project.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
Now I don’t really know much about this one, just that it’s set in Zambia and I think it follows a couple of families for generations.

United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi
This seems like a bit of an odd book but an interesting one. It seems like it’s an alternate history kind of thing, set post 9/11 the Puerto Rican prisoner Segismundo has been imprisoned for more than one hundred years, hidden away by his father, the king of the United States of Banana. But when the king frees his son, he makes Puerto Rico the fifty-first state and grants American passports to all Latin American citizens, causing an unexpected power shift with far-reaching implications.

The Door by Magda Szabó
The Door is about the relationship between two women of opposing backgrounds and personalities: one, an intellectual and writer; the other, her housekeeper, a mysterious, elderly woman who sets her own rules and abjures religion, education, pretence and any kind of authority.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
An expansive essay on colonialism and its effects in Antigua.

Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko
My read for Ukraine. All I know about this one is that it caused a stir in Ukraine and it’s very feminist.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
I received this via TBTB Santa (thanks again Jocelyn!) and I really want to read it sooner, rather than later. Especially as I think the sequel has recently been published so it’d be nice to read them close together.

Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi
This would be my read for Kuwait and it’ll be the first book I’ve ever read that’s set there.

What Would Boudicca Do? by E. Foley and B. Coates
This was a gift from my best friend and sounds like a great non-fiction read about gaining inspiration from powerful and resourceful women throughout history.

Viper by Bex Hogan
I got this book in a subscription box last year and I remember my friend Bryony reading it and liking it so it’s about time I got to it. It’s kind of a pirate/sea book I think and I can’t even remember the last time I read something like that.

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
Another book I received in a subscription box. It’s been a while since I’ve read some urban fantasy (I think that’s what this is) or fantasy in general, and I’ve yet to read a book by Adam Silvera so I’m interested in seeing what I make of his writing style.

If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. What books are you hoping to get to over the next few months?