Reflections on “MADE IN USA (Americans and American Life through Russian Eyes)
by Sergei A. Polozov”*
(My sincere appreciation to everybody who wrote to share their impressions. S.P.)
“ I was on Briton these days, and spent my money to buy your new book… Contrary to the introduction, they sold it in the
section “POLITICS” in our favorite store “St. Petersburg”. It is a very useful book, almost a textbook on American life. I
even think about presenting this book to several of my colleagues who, after having lived in America for ten years did not
grasp how American society works. Obviously they are tightly related to the Russian-speaking communities of Brooklyn and
Queens. Almost like in the old anecdote, when one old lady recently arriving to Briton asks her friend who has already lived
ten years in America: “How do you like America?”. Her friend responds: “I have no idea, we never walk there…”.
V, 48, USA
“I’ve read “America”. Almost drowned in it. There are many detail observations… I like the book as an instrument
(“microscope”) – I took a look at a new world, and even if through somebody else’s eyes, they looked objectively. It makes
you believe, and pushes you to think. But different conclusions and classifications by the author already tell you what and how
to see… About Petukhov… There are many roosters in this world… (Russian name “Petukhov” means “rooster”, SP). Who
cares? And what is the purpose of argue with them – just to get your hands dirty?.. But background is a part of the “action”,
impacting it… I have already advertised the book to my daughters… For them it will be healthy dose of humanism…”.
M, 48, Moscow
“… I personally liked it very much. And I think not only I would like it. It has been written in an interesting way, with a lot of
information, and as I think, in an objective way. I had some opportunities to communicate with Americans both in Russia and
abroad (not in USA); and my impressions are very similar”.
P., 49, Moscow
“… After returning home … I read everything from the first to the last letter without rushing, and with great pleasure… I was
so enthralled! You described your impressions very nicely, in a simple way, and with humor! I found so many familiar,
understandable, and interesting things. I learned a lot, and found answers to some questions. I like your attitude towards
people, their country, and their traditions. After my internship I have changed my attitude toward Americans. I would not say
I think better or worst of them; I always felt normally towards them; but probably I understand them better now. After me,
my Mom read your observations; she is retired, and 75 years old. Sometimes she was surprised, and asked me whether
some things are really true? I explained and confirmed everything I could and knew”.
“ First, and most importantly – it is interesting. Illustrations based on first hand experience are convincing. The author’s
participation in everyday American life is so real, that you naturally believe everything described. Writing on behalf of a
participant is a brave technique: I saw it this way, I experienced it this way, I felt it. I see it! And as a result I have my right to
express it my way, even if sometimes it is something subjective… It is sad that the original subtitle disappeared. The new one
suggested by the publisher – is a kind of a primitive bite. Plural pictures on the cover do not contribute much either.
Epigraph from “Levsha” is important, but only one side of many; the whole content of the book is a complex polygon. It is
leading you to very serious thoughts: where is the reasonable borderline between Russian “free-loading”, and brutal American
rationalism?.. There is a combination of incompatible in chapter 7 – brilliant essay on real life, and a summary of a sharp-edge
political pamphlet… Chapter 9 in general is like a summary of the problem that deserves a special book. Complex in
structure and in content, the essays on education (ch.15) and on mass media (ch.16) are like the whole plot and core of the
book in two chapters: pluses, and minuses; politics, and life; America, and Russia… About Canada and Mexico (ch.17) – is
like running and jumping… Chapters on hunting and fishing should be somewhere in the middle of the book, but discussion
about Russians in America (ch.18), and about Americans in Russia (ch.19) – are like an obvious conclusion of the book,
major idea of which is exactly about them, and about us. There are places in the book that provoke discussions, but you read
the whole book in one sitting. It is great that after the last chapter there was enough space for three of the very best pages!..
It is a new, good book.”
V., 71, Moscow
"… I have finished your book - "Made in USA". What can I say? I liked it, of course! To tell the truth, you did not discover
America for me :-). It looks like everything described in your book is very natural and logical (at least from what I can judge
based on my own modest experience of communication with foreigners). But if I concentrate on small details and nuances, I
feel the opposite: I have learned so much new for myself; and if I had to go to the United States tomorrow, your book
probably would serve me as a priceless guide.
One more thing surprised me a lot. When reading your first book "Fasciatus", everything about the behavior of larks and
other wildlife, I felt a great deal of sympathy for all these creatures. That was natural for me because I always loved animals
and have always been very much interested in song birds. But reading "Made in USA", I started to realize that Americans
began to appear pleasant to me!!.."
Z., 33 Moscow
“Here’s how one can write an annotation to this book: “You don’t like America and Americans, but don’t know why?
Always join the popular critique of all things American, but have never been in America or met any Americans? If so, this
book is certainly for you: you will understand what’s really been done in U.S. to support your non-loving feelings!
If you admire America but have also never been there, than this book is for you as well: you will definitely find something to
help you love America even more!
And if you’re still undecided about your feelings towards America, or don’t want to decide at all, the author will simply give
you food for thought”.
R., 30, Moscow
“I’ve read the book; now my kid is reading it. It is interesting that when I was looking for it, at “Biblio-Globus” they informed
me that the book is in Economy & Marketing section... In another store – in the Political Literature section... I like the book;
I took something from it in the area of pedagogy. In general, my understanding of The States (after a short-term personal
acquaintance with USA, and some rare communication with Americans) is consistent with the author’s”.
G., 40, Moscow
“Hi. I am now reading your book “Made in USA”, and I like it very much. I always wanted to move to USA for good, but I
can not do it yet… Tell me how to order (is it possible?) “Flag that waived above the Capitol” (as mentioned in your book),
from St. Petersburg, Russia?
Sincerely, and good luck in everything”.
L., 25, St. Petersburg
“ I am an 8-grader… Recently I read your book “Made in USA”. To be honest – I liked it very much! First, it has been
written in such a clear way that even I, a 13-year old boy, understood everything from beginning to end. Second, you have
really changed my opinion about America. Before I knew about it only based on movies, and from English textbooks (I go to
school with advanced study of English, and there are many texts and good pictures there). I always thought that America is a
dream of all people. I knew only about pluses of this country, but now I understand that not everything there is perfect.
When I thought about America before, I always wanted to live there for a long time. Now I am very much interested, that’s
for sure, but I do not want to live there. It is better to be a tourist. I wanted to write you very much, and here finally it
A., 13, Moscow
“My father has read the book “Made in USA”. He liked it very much. He asked me to tell you – it was interesting”.
S., 40, Moscow
“Dear Sergei, hello. I have read your book “Made in USA”. The book was interesting, but only subtitle written in English
(“Americans and American Life through Russian eyes” – SP) is not right. I.e. you are obviously not Russian. It would be
more correct to write subtitle something like: “… through Russian-speaking eyes of the former Komsomol leader who is
willing to be comfortable with his life. Why you are not Russian? Because Russians know that “spirit” is first, and it is above
of everything else. This part, unfortunately, is missing in your book. Opposite, probably, to you, I served in the Soviet Army,
and was never a member of any political party. So, excuse me for the comparison (there is a chance you never knew that),
but when one or another “hill-billy” (or, according to your attitude, loyal person, etc) found himself in the army, he became (as
you) excited with the civilization he found there. He is happy that he can brush his teeth every day. But seeing that you are a
professor (to be honest I did not get in what field) I think that’s enough food for thought. Let me tell you good bye at this
point. You can write me if you wish. I wish you the best. Sincerely...”
+ one week later:
“Excuse me for the first letter written in extremely sharp tone, -- I had some family problems, and they pushed me off the
handle (your book was close, and I was desperate to release my anger, I apologize one more time)… I definitely will buy
your another book as soon as I see it at the store. Couple of words about myself: I live in Moscow, and I am 42… I write
articles at my spare time… You can find them for example in the American (!) electronics journal… By the way,
communicating with editors via e-mail, I was always treated with polite attitude and welcoming interest, especially considering
my below-average level of English.
I wish you the best. Sincerely…”
M, 42, Moscow
“I’ve read the book. It is brave! Aren’t you afraid that “average Joes” will shun you, or just downright despise you? My
impression is that there is very much of the author in the book, but not enough of real life stories, people’s portraits, their
thoughts, feelings… But this is just my impression… And the epilogue is brilliant. It’s been my great pleasure, and I got a lot
of information. Thank you”.
S, 43, Moscow
(original version written in English)
“hi, i'm Y.
I've just finished to read your book about Americans and American Life "Made in USA".
You know, last year i was there in NJ. it was a student exchange program. i spent 4 months there but now i can say that they
were the best months of my life. this summer i also tried to go there but i did not get my visa (the situation in Moscow US
Embassy was very strange).
While reading your book, i feel the emotions i had that american summer. my friends say that can't be. but i know that it is like
this. all these people, all the life there....
i wanna thank you for this book and for my emotions i felt one more time.
Y., 21, Moscow Distr.
Forbidden Fruits of America (Russian)
By Mikhail Antonov
“Book stand” Weekly Informational Bulletin No. 34 (79), September 22 – 28, 2003. Book reviews
The book “MADE IN USA” has been written very recently, in 2002. Subtitle, provided by the author, states: “Is America
guilty of anything in this world?”. But there is one more subtitle: “Americans and American Life through Russian Eyes”. This
subtitle is exactly the reflection of the core of the book. The author – Sergei Polozov, professor, specialist in ornithology,
lived with his family in USA more than 9 years and teaches at a Lutheran university in Oregon.
His book is more like a kind of a guide, rather than an accusation of America and Americans. How to properly use a
restroom in America, without seeming inconsiderate; whether it’s possible to negotiate with the police if you are stopped on
the road; how to find a job, and how to behave in an interview; or whether you should introduce yourself to your neighbors
(coming to them with a bottle), and many other questions, normally solved quite differently in U.S. than in Russia…
Although the style of the author somewhat comes off as a scientific report (impact of his professional activities), the book is
rich in information, and many facts are interesting not only for people who are planning to go to America.
Possibly a bit annoying is the excessive political correctness (although it is understandable from a personal perspective). For
example, the author defends obese Americans from attacks of Russian mass-media by saying that they’re not that bad.
But these details do not hinder acceptance of the major point presented by the author: “In today’s world our contacts with
Americans become broader and broader, and it is yet another reason to know and understand each other better”.
At the same time after 9/11 a lot has been changed. “Even under NKVD (predecessor of KGB, -- S.P.) of the totalitarian USSR nobody could imagine the level of governmental control of the private life of citizens that’s possible in today’s democratic and totally computerized America”. Countless surveillance cameras photograph every American citizen in average twenty times per day!
Despite the fact that the author has already lived in America many years, and, probably, will stay there, he repeatedly cautions
to think twice before making your decision to move there, because we are so different. And this book can help the reader
make the right choice.
It was very interesting to read your book about the United States. My wife was there 3 years ago; I was myself there later:
unfortunately it was because of the visa restrictions within the programs available to us. Despite the fact that both of us visited
the same states (Nevada and California), we keep somewhat different memories. There are many things she liked that I didn't
like, and vice versa, but this is, after all, natural…
Your book is interesting first of all because you write not as a tourist or traveler, but as a person living everyday American life,
and knowing USA from inside. The book is very polite and politically correct; I believe that you are much tougher about
many aspects of American realities (education, how they spend their time, self-reflection), as well as about Russians in the
USA. But you are the author, and we are your readers, so it is that we agree on some things, but choose not to accept others.
I hope you will write something else about the USA; equally interesting and useful.
Thank you for the book.
“… The title of the book does not totally match its content. I would name the book: “The story of how Sergei Alexandrovitch
Polozov from Balashikha traveled to The United States of America, and what was a result of that…”
K., 53, Moscow
*Subtitle (“Is America guilty of anything in this world?”, or even: “What America is guilty of in this world?” – both
translations are possible in Russian) has been added by publisher.