An important historical document, though its relentless depiction of atrocity make this a hard slog for the average reader.

The first English translation of a seminal personal account of the first modern genocide.

Balakian (1873–1934) was a prominent intellectual and priest of the Armenian Church in Turkey at the outbreak of World War I. The Ottoman Empire was publicly neutral but secretly allied with Germany. Turkey’s long-persecuted Armenian minority favored Russia and her allies, because Czar Nicholas II had long been an unofficial, and ineffective, protector of Armenian Christians under Ottoman rule. This proved disastrous when Russia declared war on Turkey in November 1914, and Ottoman officials decided that the entire Armenian population represented a fifth column. There had been earlier massacres of Armenians in Turkey, but nothing like the nightmare that began with the April 1915 arrest in Constantinople of 250 Armenian intellectuals, including Balakian. In a text originally published in 1922, he relates their Kafka-like ordeal, in which humiliating abuse alternated with occasional kindness, and the release of a few was counterpointed by occasional killing of others. After ten months, the remnant of Balakian’s group was ordered to march west, joining hundreds of thousands of additional victims. While ordinary Germans’ acceptance of Jewish persecution was mostly passive, Balakian describes the Turkish population, civilian and military, enthusiastically falling upon the Armenians in an orgy of torture, slaughter, rape and robbery. More than a million Armenians died. With luck, the aid of comrades and a few sympathetic officials, Balakian survived to write this memoir, which combines extensive research, an account of his own experiences and testimony from eyewitnesses, both victims and perpetrators. Poet, memoirist and Armenian holocaust historian Peter Balakian (The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, 2005, etc.), Grigoris’s great-nephew, collaborated with professional translator Sevag to render the blistering Armenian text into modern English.

An important historical document, though its relentless depiction of atrocity make this a hard slog for the average reader.

Pub Date: April 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-26288-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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