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Chris Melnick: Reads and Watches

March 1, 2022


[Editor's note: Chris Melnick is the Executive Director of Share the Magic Book Program, which is a federally registered charity that distributes books, from books for babies to adults, fiction and non-fiction to underserved communities in Manitoba.  To date, Share the Magic has given away over 630,000 books at an estimated value of over $4.2 million. You can follow Share the Magic on Facebook by searching "Share the Magic Book Program"]


Watching as yet more snow falls over Winnipeg, I find myself hoping that March will come in as lion and leave as a lamb.  There is nothing like a good read to get you through the last month of winter.  Such is The Future is history: How totalitarianism reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen, a US national book award winner.  Remember I said a good read not a light one. 

        This book follows the lives of four individuals, unknown to each other, who were born in the USSR, grew up in the time of Russia’s burgeoning democracy known as glasnost and perestroika, and as adults survived the deep dive into totalitarianism – all the while living in the same geography.  In the end, several chose to emigrate from the current Russian state, as did Gessen herself, who, in a same sex relationship, knew the best move was to go with her partner and three adopted children when a law was passed which would have enabled the state to remove the children.  Gessen is now a staffer at The New Yorker and a contributing commentator on current issues through several other media outlets.  The book provides, as a back drop to the lives of the individuals, a history to the current situation between Ukraine and Russia, which at the time of writing, sees more than 100,000 troops on the border between the two countries, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that he has no intention of invading, an account of Russia’s first cyber-attack which occurred in 2007, after the Estonian people rioted against Russian control, and the seemingly first political poisoning during the time of Vladimir Putin of a young political activist named Vladimir Kara-Murza, in I believe 2014.  Although only touched upon, the subject of the Putin-appointed Russian oligarchs is well represented by yet another Vladimir – Vladimir Yakunin, who was awarded a jaw-dropping $50 billion US for building a 30 mile stretch of highway.  Hmm – how much is that per mile?


The Future is history is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:




Book - 947.086 Gessen 2017

Large Type Book - LT 947.086 Gessen 2018



        On a much lighter note, I would like to recommend The Good Karma Hospital, a four season British production which follows the goings-on at a Southern India under-funded rural hospital, through the eyes junior doctor, Dr. Ruby Walker, a British expat, who is drawn to Indian to connect with her father’s heritage.  The series is beautifully shot and you can actually feel the heat of India. 

        Although the fourth season was released in January 2022, only the first three seasons are currently available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:


Streaming through hoopla




And now for this month’s Yiddish proverb:


Mit shnai ken men nit machen gomolkes

You can’t make a cheesecake out of snow


Too bad – if it were not so, we would all be well-fed on cheese cake!

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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