Black Dog Of Fate: A Memoir

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9780465007042: Black Dog Of Fate: A Memoir

His visions are burning his poetry heartbreaking,” wrote Elie Wiesel of American poet Peter Balakian. Now, in elegant prose, the prize-winning poet who James Dickey called an extraordinary talent” has written a compelling memoir about growing up American in a family that was haunted by a past too fraught with terror to be spoken of openly. Black Dog of Fate is set in the affluent New Jersey suburbs where Balakian the firstborn son of his generation grew up in a close, extended family. At the center of what was a quintessential American baby boom childhood lay the dark specter of a trauma his forebears had experienced the Ottoman Turkish government's extermination of more than a million Armenians in 1915, the century's first genocide. In a story that climaxes to powerful personal and moral revelations, Balakian traces the complex process of discovering the facts of his people's history and the horrifying aftermath of the Turkish government's campaign to cover up one of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity.In describing his awakening to the facts of history, Balakian introduces us to a remarkable family of matriarchs and merchants, physicians, a bishop, and his aunts, two well-known figures in the world of literature. The unforgettable central figure of the story is Balakian's grandmother, a survivor and widow of the Genocide who speaks in fragments of metaphor and myth as she cooks up Armenian delicacies, plays the stock market, and keeps track of the baseball stats of her beloved Yankees. The book is infused with the intense and often comic collision between this family's ancient Near Eastern traditions and the American pop culture of the '50s and '60s.Balakian moves with ease from childhood memory, to history, to his ancestors' lives, to the story of a poet's coming of age. Written with power and grace, Black Dog of Fate unfolds like a tapestry its tale of survival against enormous odds. Through the eyes of a poet, here is the arresting story of a family's journey from its haunted past to a new life in a new world.

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Review:

The author of four volumes of verse, Peter Balakian writes with the precision of a poet and the lyricism of a privileged suburban child in 1950s New Jersey. He is shadowed by his relatives' carefully guarded memories of past trauma: the brutal Turkish extermination in 1915 of more than a million Armenians, including most of his maternal grandmother's family. Balakian seamlessly interweaves personal and historical material to depict one young man's reclamation of his heritage and to scathingly indict the political forces that conspired to sweep under the rug the 20th century's first genocide.

From the Publisher:

One of the Los Angeles Times "Best Books of 1997"

"All the best memoirs belong to the literature of quest....Peter Balakian's Black Dog of Fate is such a book."
--Houston Chronicle

"Written with great sensitivity, Black Dog of Fate is at once a family memoir, a history of the extermination of the Armenians in Turkey, and the story of a young man's passage into adulthood....A fascinating and affecting memoir."
--New York Times Book Review

"A landmark chapter in the literature of witness. . . . Out of silence he has crafted something new."
--Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review

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