Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Soviet Milk

Nora Ikstena

Why would a mother refuse to bond with or breastfeed her baby?
Milk is a recurring motif in this harrowing and evocative account of three generations of women living under Soviet rule in Latvia, but it is never the milk of human kindness. The impact of radical cultural oppression is especially harsh on women, who must maintain a fa├žade of ideal family life at the expense of intellectual freedom, with damaging psychological repercussions.


I never raised questions among my woman patients, never counselled anyone to have an abortion. But giving birth and letting a child enter this world in this time and place seemed to me as senseless as everything else that was going on around us. We were cut off from the world. We were destined for a somnambulant existence and condemned to call it life. And I found myself at the heart of this somnambulism ... Driven from a brilliant Soviet medical career, from its congresses, its bribes and backhanders. Excluded from science and its future discoveries.

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