The setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin—if not America’s heart, then at least its liver—home to an array of breweries and abandoned factories and down-on-their-luck Eastern European immigrants. The year is 1989.
Revolutions are sweeping through the nations of the Eastern Bloc. Communism is unraveling. And nobody feels this unraveling more piquantly than Yuri Balodis—a fifteen-year-old first-generation American living with his Latvian-immigrant parents in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.
It’s a turbulent time. And when Yuri falls in love with Hannah Graham—the daring daughter of a prominent local socialist—chaos ensues. Within weeks, Yuri is ensnared by both Hannah and socialism. He joins the staff of the Socialist Worker . He starts quoting Lenin and Marx indiscriminately.
His parents, of course, are horrified and deeply saddened. They try to educate him, to show him why, in their opinion, communism has ruined so many lives. But Yuri is stubborn. And his ideological betrayal will have more serious consequences than breaking his parents’ hearts.
Red Weather is by turns funny and bittersweet, tinged with a rueful comic sense that will instantly remind you of the absurd complications of love. Pauls Toutonghi’s stunning debut novel is at once reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner .
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Red Weather|
|Release Date: 02-27-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Wednesday, august 16, 1989
Milwaukee is not famous. Don't believe the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, which has claimed since 1871 that Schlitz is "the beer that made Milwaukee famous." This is an indisputable lie. As a teenage resident of downtown Milwaukee-as an inhabitant of the zip code 53202-I was as anonymous as anyone else in America. There was no fame magically coursing through my city's rusted water pipes. There was no fame in the boarded-up homes and concrete warehouses of my neighborhood.
Schlitz or no Schlitz, my family lived in a four-story building on the border of a Section 8 housing development. We inhabited one wing of the top floor. My mom posted this sign just above our mailbox, in cheerful red ink and Scotch tape:
The Balodis Family Welcome You!
Come into our home in Apartment Number 7!
In Latvian, Balodis means pigeon. We were a small roost of Soviet immigrant pigeons-just the three of us-huddled together amid the urban decay.
Yes, the apartment was dingy. But dingy in a hopeful way, dingy with a heart. Looking back on it fifteen years later, I recognize that it did have certain low-budget flair. There were posters tacked to the walls, or rather, 81/2-by-11 advertisements that my mom had carefully torn out of the magazines in the library. These were advertisements of many different sorts: Coca-Cola, Wrangler Jeans, the Toyota Camry. Anything with bright colors or a sense of consumer wealth. She tacked them up behind sheets of plastic, and at night the plastic would catch the lamplight and shimmer. "That, my darli