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Published to critical acclaim in Russia, Bibish's memoir of raw hardship and desperate courage prompted one critic to declare that it put fiction to shame. Through plainspoken, episodic vignettes-lit with flashes of wry self-awareness-Bibish, a former Moscow street vendor, divulges epic tragedy without histrionics: a grisly upbringing of abject poverty in Muslim Uzbekistan, provincial repression and victimization that proves sorrowfully apt in steeling her for life's cruelties. Gang-raped and left for dead, she returns to her family looking "as ugly and dirty as the witch Baba-Yaga," dispelling her parents' worries with the lie that she'd been tending cows. She takes up dancing only to disgrace her village; and as a documented nonvirgin she's hard-pressed to find a husband. After fleeing to Leningrad, she returns to marry into a respectable family and eventually settles in Russia, which brings challenges both sober and silly. With innocent candor (she finds herself a "primitive savage" in the big city), Bibish effectively weaves into her understated narrative snippets of traditions and folk proverbs. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.