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The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Responseby Peter Balakian
Synopses & Reviews
Awarded the Raphael Lemkin Prize for the best scholarly book on genocide by the Institute for Genocide Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY Graduate Center.
In this groundbreaking history of the Armenian Genocide, the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts, Peter Balakian presents the chilling history of how the Young Turk government implemented the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. And in the telling, he also resurrects an extraordinary lost chapter of American history.
During the United States' ascension in the global arena at the turn of the twentieth century, America's humanitarian movement for Armenia was an important part of the rising nation's first epoch of internationalism. Intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens came together to try to save the Armenians. The Burning Tigris reconstructs this landmark American cause that was spearheaded by the passionate commitments and commentaries of a remarkable cast of public figures, including Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Alice Stone Blackwell, Stephen Crane, and Ezra Pound, as well as courageous missionaries, diplomats, and relief workers who recorded their eyewitness accounts and often risked their lives in the killing fields of Armenia.
The crisis of the "starving Armenians" was so embedded in American popular culture that, in an age when a loaf of bread cost a nickel, the American people sent more than $100 million in aid through the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities and its successor, Near East Relief. In 1915 alone, the New York Times published 145 articles about the Armenian Genocide.
Theodore Roosevelt called the extermination of the Armenians "the greatest crime of the war." But in the turmoil following World War I, it was a crime that went largely unpunished. In depicting the 1919 Ottoman court-martial trials, Balakian reveals the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide confessing their guilt — an astonishing fact given the Turkish government's continued denial of the Genocide.
After World War I, U.S. oil interests in the Middle East steered America away from the course it had pursued for four decades. As Balakian eloquently points out, America's struggle between human rights and national self-interest — a pattern that would be repeated again and again — resonates powerfully today. In crucial ways, America's involvement with the Armenian Genocide is a paradigm for the modern age.
"An eloquent account of Turkey's long campaign to rid itself of Armenians — and far longer campaign to disavow any responsibility for crimes against humanity. Thoroughly convincing." Kirkus Reviews
"The Burning Tigris is an act of acute historical memory, of personal testimony, of prophetic witness — and of high art." James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword and Secret Father
"A gripping treatment of the official Turkish mass murder...a masterpiece of moral history...it needs to be widely read." Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory and Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
"This book will be a classic, in terms of what it says about genocide and about the struggle of America — and humanity as a whole — to come to terms with it." Robert J. Lifton, author of Superpower Syndrome: Entering a New Age of Extremes
Book News Annotation:
The Armenian Genocide by the Turks was the first great genocide of the 20th century. Balakian (humanities, Colgate U.) explores the American response to the crime through the actions of diplomats and politicians, as well as Protestant missionaries, the press, and the American relief community. State Department officials, particularly Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, are portrayed as going to almost heroic lengths in efforts to avert the massacres. The passion of the relief agencies are also described favorably, while isolationist Republican Senators and post-World War I power alliances and oil considerations are suggested to have diverted attempts to address the genocide. These tensions, contends Balakian, continue to haunt American foreign policy down to the present time.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The highly esteemed author of Black Dog Fate offers a masterful and vivid history of the Armenian massacres of the 1980s and the Genocide of 1915 and America's extraordinary response.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -453) and index.
This book will be a classic, in terms of what it says about genocide and about the struggle of America --and humanity as a whole - to come to terms with it.
About the Author
Peter Balakian is the author of Black Dog of Fate, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Memoir and a New York Times Notable Book, and June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000. He is the recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. He holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University and teaches at Colgate University, where he is a Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities.
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