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One Book | One Community 2015

One Book | One Community 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015 to Sunday, December 6, 2015

Debut memoir by young Soviet émigré chosen as 2015 Chicago Jewish Community ONE BOOK | ONE COMMUNITY selection

For the fifth year in a row, Spertus Institute is proud to spearhead One Book | One Community, in which a single Jewish book is selected as the focal point of discussions and events across the Greater Chicago Jewish community.

The One Book | One Community initiative is a centerpiece of our community’s celebration of Jewish Book Month. 

It is our pleasure to announce that this year's book is A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin. 

Backpack Bear Cover


"A perceptive, unflinching, and unexpectedly funny look at a life sculpted by history."
—Amazon Best Book of the Month

"[A] hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family’s escape from oppression....whose drama, hope and heartache Mr. Golinkin captures brilliantly."
The New York Times

"An awesome intercontinental whirlwind, funny and smart."
—Gary Shteyngart, bestselling author of Little Failure


Author Lev Golinkin was born in Kharkov, Ukraine in 1980, during the twilight of the Soviet Union, a time of virulent antisemitism. When immigration was made briefly possible due to international pressure, his family risked everything to make a new life for Lev and his sister. Years later, Lev, an American adult just out of college, retraced his family's long trek. To offer his thanks, he located the strangers who helped his family and fought for their freedom. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is his story — and theirs.

A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is available in hardback, ebook, and audio versions. It will be available in paperback this fall. 

Resources for book groups and individual readers will be available online in November.

Meet the Author

Lev Golinkin will join us for two special author appearances, one at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park and one at Spertus Institute.
We hope to see you there!

Spertus Institute Assistant Editor Joanna Rothenberg recently spoke over the phone with Lev Golinkin, author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, this year’s One Book, One Community selection.
Read an edited version of their conversation> 

Author photo by Diana P. Lang

We'd love to keep in touch


JUF Logo Blue

JUF News is the media sponsor
of One Book | One Community.

NSS Beth El

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El 
is our One Book | One Community
synagogue partner. 

About the Author

Lev GolinkinLev Golinkin came to the United States as a child refugee from the Ukraine in the Soviet Union. He is a graduate of Boston College who currently resides in New Jersey.

Related Programs

USSR FlagIn conjunction with the 2015 One Book | One Community initiative, Spertus Institute presents a series of programs about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

Guardians of Rememberance
Thursday, October 29 at AMC Theaters Northbrook Court

Building Zion in Stalin's Russia
Sunday, November 15 at Spertus

Jewish Artists in Chicago and the Gift to Birobidzhan
Sunday, November 22 at Spertus

Author Event #1
Sunday, December 6 at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El

Author Event #2
Sunday, December 6 at Spertus