Synopses & Reviews
from "Ozone Journal"
Bachs cantata in B-flat minor in the cassette,
we lounged under the greenhouse-sky, the UVBs hacking
at the acids and oxides and then I could hear the difference
between an oboe and a bassoon
at the rivers edge under cover
trees breathed in our respiration;
there was something on the other side of the river,
something both of us were itching toward
radical bonds were broken, history became science.
We were never the same.
The title poem of Peter Balakian's Ozone Journal is a sequence of fifty-four short sections, each a poem in itself, recounting the speaker's memory of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert with a crew of television journalists in 2009. These memories spark othersthe dissolution of his marriage, his life as a young single parent in Manhattan in the nineties, visits and conversations with a cousin dying of AIDScreating a montage that has the feel of history as lived experience. Bookending this sequence are shorter lyrics that span times and locations, from Nairobi to the Native American villages of New Mexico. In the dynamic, sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma, and forgetting is both global and ancient; but we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture and the resilience of love.
"Gal Beckerman has written the definitive account of what might be the most successful human rights campaign of our time. This is a wonderful book: The narrative is thrilling and propulsive; the writing is beautiful; and the research absolutely authoritative. The movement to free Soviet Jewry will be studied for years to come as a model of non-violent civil disobedience, and Gal Beckermans book will be read years from now as the masterwork on the subject."
—Jeffrey Goldberg, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, and author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror
"Gal Beckermans book shines a long-needed spotlight on one of the great human rights struggles of the past century. It is dramatic, revelatory and deeply inspiring."
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars
"Among the great liberation strivings of the twentieth century — civil rights in America, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the independence of India — one of the most painfully achieved was the exodus of Jews from Soviet oppression. Gal Beckerman recounts the historic trajectory of this grand assertion of human rights with passionate clarity and pellucid conviction. His tireless persistence in pursuit of a stirring heroic chronicle is itself a form of heroism."
"Gal Beckerman has written the Parting the Waters of the Jewish experience. In this stirring epic — intellectually brilliant, historically authoritative and emotionally heartfelt in equal measure — he has chronicled one of the great liberation struggles of modern times. And he has placed himself at the apex of his generation of nonfiction writers."
—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew
"A beautifully written book with both depth and cinematic qualities."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutantes Handbook and Absurdistan "A fascinating, deeply researched, and revealing account of the brave Jews in the Soviet Union and of those in the West who worked tirelessly on their behalf."
—Sir Martin Gilbert, author of Churchill: A Life
"At last, the Soviet Jewry movement has found its chronicler. To read this book is to relive the heroism and the heartache, the desperation and the jubilation that marked the long struggle to free Soviet Jews. This is a moving, reliable and memorable narrative of one of the greatest human rights dramas of our time."
—Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History "Colorfully fleshes out personal stories within the headlines . . . A comprehensive, contextually rich study." -- Kirkus Reviews "Absorbing and inspiring . . . An outstanding chronicle of a great effort conducted by determined and courageous men and women." -- Booklist, starred review "Enthralling . . . A must read." -- Russian Life "Masterful and highly readable history."' -- The Forward"Comprehensive and readable . . .it's Beckerman's intimate portrait of the U.S. and Soviet outsiders that makes us care about their struggle." -- Newsday
"Remarkable... The author is gifted at weaving this very human and very political tale together." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A brief review can scarcely compass the breadth and richness of Beckerman's narrative or do justice to the unimaginable physical and moral courage and the resourcefulness of the dissidents and refuseniks crowding his pages. His honest recounting of their human failings and rivalries makes their achievement all the more remarkable. Beckerman also reminds us of the extent to which contemporary American Jewry was shaped by this history. Struggles create leaders and the Soviet Jewry movement was no exception. His book constitutes a veritable who's who of American Jewish leaders, who early in their professional lives came of age, in one way or another, in the movement." -- Jewish Review of Books
"Wide-ranging and often moving." -- The New Yorker
"Beckermans riveting and important book shows that it took the grass-roots efforts of Jews around the world, as well as the power of the American government, to bring this story to a happy ending. If the movement to 'save Soviet Jewry' is not well remembered, Beckerman writes, it is because 'it is a victim of its own success.' Now that he has told the story so well, however, it will surely take its rightful place as one of the greatest dramas in modern Jewish history." -- Tablet
"When They Come for Us will be a standard text about the Soviet-Jewry movement for scholars, students, and general readers alike." --The Jewish Week
"Fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched... Beckerman wants to ensure that the story of this epic struggle isn't forgotten, and I hope that, with this excellent book, he succeeds." -- Anne Applebaum, Washington Post
“[An] engrossing and poignant memoir.” San Francisco Chronicle
The terrible fate of the Armenians... is brilliantly described. A great service to the history of the Armenians.” Sir Martin Gilbert, author of The Righteous: the Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust
“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
“In this important book, Balakian proves adept at presenting both human horror and political tragedy.” Booklist
“Richly imagined and carefully documented.” The New Yorker
“A mighty work, a slow burn of muted eloquence, dense with scholarship...compelling.” Forward
“[A] fascinating and affecting memoir.” New York Times Book Review
“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
“Peter Balakian tells the powerful and largely unknown story of [Armenian Genocide]. This important and compelling book is long overdue.” Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D., Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies Director, Emory University
“Balakian tells a story long ripe for the telling.... He writes with grace and power.” Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, The University of Chicago, author of Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World
“An eloquent account of Turkeys long campaign to rid itself of Armenians....Thoroughly convincing.” Kirkus Reviews
"In his new book, Ozone Journal, Balakian masterfully does the things nobody else does—derange history into poetry, make poetry painting, make painting culture, make culture living—and with a historical depth that finds the right experience in language."
"Balakian uses history to present readers with a fossil record of orchestrated disasters, both personal and on a grander scale. Though his memories are separated from the bones of Armenia’s great genocide by time and space and suffering, they have an organic quality that is fresh and uniquely personal."
A History of International Human Rights and Forgotten Heroes
In this national bestseller, the critically acclaimed author Peter Balakian brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts, Balakian presents the chilling history of how the Turkish government implemented the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. And in the telling, he resurrects an extraordinary lost chapter of American history.
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.
At the end of World War II, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradoxunwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, Well Be Gone
is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue. Drawing on newly released Soviet government documents, as well as hundreds of oral interviews, Gal Beckerman shows not only how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989, but also how it gave the American Jewish community a renewed sense of spiritual purpose and taught it to flex its political muscle. In cinematic detail, this multi-generational saga, filled with suspense and packed with revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.
The untold story of the twenty-five-year struggle to free Soviet Jews, drawing on newly released Soviet government documents as well as hundreds of oral interviews, and told from the perspective of the individuals on the frontlines.
A New Yorker
“Beckerman recounts the historic trajectory of this grand assertion of human rights with passionate clarity and pellucid conviction.”—Cynthia Ozick
AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, NEARLY THREE MILLION JEWS WERE TRAPPED INSIDE THE SOVIET UNION. They lived a paradox—unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, Well Be Gone is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue. Drawing on newly released Soviet government documents and hundreds of interviews, Beckerman shows how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989 and forced human rights into the center of American foreign policy. In cinematic detail, this multigenerational saga, filled with suspense and revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.
“Fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched.”—Anne Applebaum, Washington Post Best Nonfiction 2010
“A riveting work of reporting and a magisterial history of one of the twentieth centurys great dramas of liberation.”—Commentary
About the Author
Peter Balakian is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor in Humanities and professor of English at Colgate University. He is the author of seven books of poems, most recently of Ziggurat and June-tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974–2000. He is also the author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, a New York Times best seller, and Black Dog of Fate, a memoir. A new collection of essays, Vise and Shadow, is also available this spring from the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
Name and Place
Pueblo 1, New Mexico
Pueblo 2, New Mexico
Pueblo, Christmas Dance
Joe Louiss Fist
Hart Crane in LA, 1927
Baseball Days, 61
Here and Now
Slum Drummers, Nairobi
Near the Border