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May 23, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

HOW WE SURVIVED COMMUNISM AND EVEN LAUGHED by Slavenka Drakulic (HarperPerennial: $12; 197 pp.). Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic writes about the contrasts between political rhetoric and the trivia of daily life in Eastern Europe. "Most removed from the seats of political power," she found women: the dumpy women in babushkas who serve as the butt of American jokes. Drakulic explains that their frowziness does not represent a political rejection of Western glamour, but the grinding poverty of the former Soviet bloc. Governments unable to supply their citizens with such basic necessities as soap, toilet paper and fresh vegetables, couldn't provide pretty clothes, although people ardently desired them. Drakulic's blend of personal reminiscence and careful observation provides a wrenching portrait of the millions of women who struggled to maintain a semblance of family life in a bleak world of dire shortages and scant hope.

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