Paulina Bren is a historian and writer.  She teaches at Vassar College, and is currently working on a book about the women who passed through the doors of New York’s famous Barbizon Hotel.

The Greengrocer and His TV

won the 2012 Council for European Studies Book Prize, the 2012 Austrian Studies Book Award, and was shortlisted for the 2011 Wayne S. Vucinich Prize.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle.

The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) called it “splendid,” underscoring that it “helps lay the foundation for further study of the often contradictory ways in which a certain lifestyle was encouraged under bureaucratic socialism….”  The Foreign Affairs Journal noted that, “Doing the history of passivity and accommodation is not easy, and Bren proceeds ingeniously by exploring the subtle buying into the system….” Both The Economist‘s East European Blog and The Prague Post put it on their Best of Summer Reading lists.

Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe


Bren received her B.A. in the College of Letters Program at Wesleyan University, after which she completed an M.A. in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Washington as a Jackson Fellow.  She went on to do her Ph.D. in  Modern European History at New York University as a MacCracken Fellow and student of the late Tony Judt.

She has  been the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, the NCEEER and, most recently, the National Endowment of Humanities.  She has held residencies at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University and the Institute for Advanced  Study in Budapest.

In addition to her two books, she has also published a range of essays on postwar Europe, particularly on the politics of everyday life in the Eastern Bloc.  The Greengrocer and His TV was recently published in a Czech-language translation.