Armenian Genocide, Peter Balakian’s Black Dog of Fate.

Peter Balakian's memoir about growing up in suburban New Jersey also tells about the Armenian Genocide.

Peter Balakian's memoir about growing up in suburban New Jersey also tells about the Armenian Genocide.

Yesterday marked 94 years since the Ottoman Empire began the systematic annihilation of hundreds of thousands of Armenian people in what has since become known as the Armenian Genocide.

The Turkish government denies that the genocide ever happened; to say the opposite-to state the truth, in other words-is to commit a crime in Turkey.

A number of academics and authors like Taner Akcam and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk have faced legal action due to their efforts to crack the nearly 100-year-old wall of denial.

Poet and professor Peter Balakian’s grandmother was one of the survivors.  He recounts his memories of growing up in an Armenian home in 1950s and 60s suburban New Jersey and his grandmother’s remarkable efforts to recoup her losses from the Turkish government in Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past.

The book essentially reads as two separate but related parts.  Balakian shares childhood experiences, including his grandmother’s ghost-like appearances when he is sick and taking in cryptic phrases like the book’s title in an effort to render her experience.

The second half turns to Balakian’s grandmother’s tale of survival and unrelenting and ultimately successful attempt to get some measure of redress from the Turkish government for the material losses she sustained.

At moments, the two parts feel so distinct that one wonders if the book could have worked more effectively as two separate works.  Still, Balakian’s honesty, attention to detail, sense of humor and absurdity and his grandmother’s courage draw the reader along in this noteworthy, readable and significant work.


3 responses to “Armenian Genocide, Peter Balakian’s Black Dog of Fate.

  1. Peter Balakian
    Armenian Golgotha
    Discussion and Signing
    May 15, 2009 7:00 PM
    Glendale – Borders
    100 S. Brand Blvd.
    Glendale, CA 91204
    On April 24, 1915, the priest Grigoris Balakian was arrested along with some 250 other intellectuals and leaders of Constantinople’s Armenian community. It was the beginning of the Ottoman Turkish government’s systematic attempt to eliminate the Armenian people from Turkey. Full of shrewd insights into the political, historical, and cultural context of the Armenian genocide this memoir is destined to become a classic of survivor literature.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Carlos, for sending this along. I have seen, but not yet read, Professor Balakian’s latest book. Your note is a reminder for me to get there!

      Thanks again.


  2. Pingback: Turkey and Armenia’s accord, books about the Armenian genocide. « Jeff Kelly Lowenstein’s Blog

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