Review by Choice Review
Sperling's finely nuanced study is perhaps unique in the breadth of its coverage and in its detailed examination of the complex circumstances that constrain and enable women's organizing efforts. Fleshing out her narrative with extensive interviews, Sperling empathetically chronicles Russian women activists' ambivalence over the meaning and relevance of "feminism" for their lives, their reluctance to fundraise within Russia or even conduct membership drives, their repugnance toward strikes or demonstrations as tactics, their hesitancy to form coalitions or umbrella organizations, and their mutual distrust. Sperling is particularly adept at portraying the myriad obstacles to mass action as well as the (unintended) harmful consequences of Russian women's groups' dependence on foreign aid. Moreover, she attempts to situate her work in cross-cultural context, and speculates about points of comparison between social movements in Russia and Third World countries. The book's main weaknesses are a certain ahistoricism (differing policies of the Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev periods are merged into a monolith) and a simplistic tendency to blame a range of disparate and even contradictory social phenomena (e.g., extreme individualism, antifeminism, anarchism, reliance on/mistrust of the state, reluctance to demonstrate) on the Soviet system. Nevertheless, the book will be extremely useful for students of social movements in Russia and beyond. Upper-division undergraduates and above. A. H. Koblitz; Arizona State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.