Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
You Must Go and Win

You Must Go and Win


Alina Simone

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




In the wickedly bittersweet and hilarious You Must Go and Win, the Ukrainian-born musician Alina Simone traces her bizarre journey through the indie rock world, from disastrous Craigslist auditions with sketchy producers to catching fleas in a Williamsburg sublet. But Simone offers more than down-and-out tales of her time as a struggling musician: she has a rapier wit, slashing and burning her way through the absurdities of life, while offering surprising and poignant insights into the burdens of family expectations and the nature of ambition, the temptations of religion and the lure of a mythical Russian home. Wavering between embracing and fleeing her outsized and nebulous dreams of stardom, Simone confronts her Russian past when she falls in love with the music of Yanka Dyagileva, a Soviet singer who tragically died young; hits the road with her childhood friend who is dead set on becoming an "icon"; and battles male strippers in Siberia.

Hailed as "the perfect storm of creative talent" (USA Today, Pop Candy), Simone is poised to win over readers of David Rakoff and Sarah Vowell with her irresistibly funny and charming literary debut.


You Must Go and Win

In late September 2008, I received an email from one ELMONSTRO with the subject line "Hello, Alina! Kharkov on the Line!" ELMONSTRO's real name, it turned out, was Kiril, and he...


Praise for You Must Go and Win

“Vibrant, taut and humorous…[Simone] skillfully captures the forlorn waiting-to-be-famous existence of young creative people.” —Kirkus

“Singer-songwriter Simone dissects her Russian roots, her convoluted path toward religion, and what it means to be an artist, in this razor-sharp debut essay collection. Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1974 Simone moved to Massachusetts with her parents (her father was blacklisted by the KGB) as an infant and grew up loving to sing. But the road to indie rock stardom is a bumpy one, from trying to find a producer on Craigslist in "Gloom-Deflecting Mailman Warrior Gods" to being so close to getting your album distributed, then hearing that all the money's been stolen, in "Down and Out on Hope Street." Working for a nonprofit that ran a teaching program in Russia, Simone's own past and her musical inspirations soon merged around the figure of Siberian punk rocker Yanka Dyagileva, who died young in 1991 and whose songs Simone covered in a 2008 album. In "I Wanted Unicorns," she recounts a Russian trip where she not only sees Dyagileva's grave but is baptized by a renegade priest named Punk Monk. Throughout all of this, she struggles to figure out how to make a life--and a living--from making music. Simone ably juggles the philosophical and the comical, her genuine enthusiasm for arcane subject matter as contagious as the fleas in her long ago apartment.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Most collections of personal essays are dull. This one isn't. Alina Simone uses her life as material to tell stories that are funny, heartwarming, tragic--often all at the same time. Her subjects, whether music, religion, Russia, or family, are conjured and dissected with warm humor and sharp eyes. Probably it's a really good thing she never became an international rock star: she wouldn't have written this if she had.” —Neil Gaiman

“Never has the paying of creative dues been written about with more sincerity and humor. As a twenty-first century Portrait of the Artist, warts and all, You Must Go and Win is a delight and, in all honesty, an inspiration.” —John Wray, author of Lowboy

“At the memoir's core is a protagonist yearning to establish musical connections to her past. Simone's earnest desire to represent individuals honestly leads to detailed character descriptions that enliven the people in her memoir.” —Joshua Finnell, Library Journal

“A collection of wry, fascinating essays . . . The combination of her Russian heritage and her escapades as a struggling artist provide fodder for poignant and hilarious tales like arriving in her native Kharkov to meet The Cousin Who Drinks Water. No matter how foreign the territory, be it a studio or the Ukraine, Simone's writing is imminently relatable.” —BrooklynBased

“Her warm and hilarious new book is full of self-effacing anecdotes about trying to make it as an artist in New York and other madcap adventures--making it one of few memoirs that stands out in a crowd.” —

“The resulting book is a collection of funny, cynical essays on meeting sketchy producers off of Craigslist, her obsession with Skopsy, a Russian castrati set, and battling fleas in her Williamsburg apartment.” —Courier Life

“After a chance listen by a major publishing editor on Pandora, Alina was asked to write the essays for the book, You Must Go and Win . What comes out are essays about trying to find a roommate in Brooklyn, living in the realm of the music PR machine and explorations of her Russian background. Some would say ‘poignant' and ‘introspective.' But there's also a deftness Alina has in discussing the business of music along with the hopes and dreams wrapped up in it.” —Impose Magazine

“An engaging and honest look at an indie musician's life…Written with clutter-free concision, Simone's search for meaning reads pithy and often laugh-out-loud funny.” —Blurt

“Simone reveals the flair of a born raconteur, recounting record deals gone bust; the ubiquity of Britney Spears, even in Siberia; and hanging out with alt-cabaret belter Amanda Palmer, Simone's childhood friend.” —SPIN

“Amazing . . . Sarah Vowell fans, trust me on this one: pre-order Alina Simone's ‘You Must Go and Win' now. The funniest essays I've read in years.” —Michael Schaub, Bookslut

In the Press

What's in a name? Plenty. A new one can change your life. - The New York Times

Author and singer Alina Simone recently took a tour of the new 1 WTC building, currently at 91 stories and billed as the future tallest building in the country. Here's her account of the view from above. - The Wall Street Journal

Writer and musician Alina Simone reflects on the end of the Cold War, and how the world has changed since. - The Wall Street Journal

"Who knows where that ice came from? It's probably dirty" -- and other theories on why Russians won't add ice to their drinks. - The New York Times

I have never been ghost hunting before. I have also never been to Staten Island. Now a silent battle rages within me as to which of these firsts is more exciting. - The New York Times

How a hairdresser closed up shop, got on her bike and became my friend. - The New York Times

What started out as a birding tour on the East River becomes a journey into New York's dark history. - The New York Times

A new life and renewed interest in old family roots. - The New York Times

Reviews from Goodreads

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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