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.
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.