In this tenth anniversary edition of his award-winning memoir, New York Times bestselling author Peter Balakian has expanded his compelling story about growing up in the baby-boom suburbs of the '50s and '60s and coming to understand what happened to his family in the first genocide of the twentieth century--the Ottoman Turkish government's extermination of more than one million Armenians in 1915. In this new edition, Balakian continues his exploration of the Armenian Genocide with new chapters about his journey to Aleppo and his trip to the Der Zor desert of Syria in his pursuit of his grandmother's life, bringing us closer to the twentieth century's first genocide.
The memoir relates many of the adolescent
In college, Balakian became aware of the massacre that his grandparents and parents had escaped from before coming to America and struggles to understand why this important event in the history of his people was never spoken of amongst his immediate and extended family.
This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in learning about Armenian culture or simply in reading about the lives of Armenians who managed to assimilate in American society while retaining most of their cultural heritage. More importantly, this book is a great starting point for learning about the Armenian genocide and the subsequent denial by the Turkish government that it ever occurred. Balakian's memoir deserves a place next to the witness testimonies of the Holocaust and other state-sponsored mass murders; the purpose of a book like this is to make sure that genocide is never forgotten.
I read this in a course called "Literature of the
The first half of the book is focused on the author’s early interactions with his grandmother. They live in suburban neighborhood, and bond over a shared love of baseball. She tells him stories, one of which is a parable about the titular black dog, and says, “Appearances are deceiving. The world is not what you think.” Balakian selects episodes that illustrate his family’s preservation of the Armenian culture.
There are a number of literary references in this work – Armenian authors and artists – as well as Armenian cuisine and religion. He confronts genocide deniers. He links the Armenian genocide to what happened later in Nazi Germany and addresses the dangers of nationalistic thinking – an issue we still deal with today.
It is beautifully written. Balakian is a distinguished poet, and it shows in his writing. A few poems relating to his heritage are included. I was expecting that the author would have travelled to the region, but if he did, it is not part of this memoir.