Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past
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The first-born son of his generation, Peter Balakian grew up in a close, extended family, sheltered by 1950s and '60s New Jersey suburbia and immersed in an all-American boyhood defined by rock 'n' roll, adolescent pranks, and a passion for the New York Yankees that he shared with his beloved grandmother. But beneath this sunny world lay the dark specter of the trauma his family and ancestors had experienced--the Turkish government's extermination of more than a million Armenians in 1915, including many of Balakian's relatives, in the century's first genocide.
In elegant, moving prose, Black Dog of Fate charts Balakian's growth and personal awakening to the facts of his family's history and the horrifying aftermath of the Turkish government's continued campaign to cover up one of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity. In unearthing the secrets of a family's past and how they affect its present, Black Dog of Fate gives fresh meaning to the story of what it means to be an American.
crime ever, who will apologize to the Armenian people, and who will do his best to indemnify them, materially and morally, in the eyes of the world.” I come back to the case of my grandmother. She had been uncannily sharp in her immediate response to the events of death, torture, and genocide through which she had lived. In Aleppo, where she was living in the death-filled refugee quarter, she sought some small emblem of justice. She made a testimony that was both private and public, spiritual as
ground we had gained over the past year was lost. The car accident drove a new wedge between us. My father’s fears about my life of suburban indulgence were coming true. My silence that summer was shame, and my father’s silence was Old World disgust for the eldest son who had disgraced himself. When the news of the car accident reached the other side of the bridge, my father reported that Auntie Anna declared reform school, not college, was my most likely future. At the end of another silent
Allen Ginsberg began exchanging Paterson High gossip, town gossip, northern Jersey gossip, and my mother, who had dug up the titles of a few of Louis Ginsberg’s poems my aunt liked, began praising them. Ginsberg seemed so delightedly caught off-guard that he now turned his sole attention to my mother, leaving the professors and students to themselves. Still chatting with Ginsberg, my mother began dishing up lasagna, imploring everyone to eat because the reading was in less than an hour. As she
establishments dismiss their Greek employees. Morgenthau wrote: I did not have the slightest suspicions at that time that the Germans had instigated these deportations, but I looked upon them merely as an outburst of Turkish chauvinism. . . . By this time I knew Talaat well; I saw him nearly every day, and he used to discuss practically every phase of international relations with me. I objected vigorously to his treatment of the Greeks; I told him that it would make the worst possible impression
will be fine,” my grandfather says. The evening is slate gray over Soma and it is drizzling. The smell of sodden tobacco is oppressive in the wet air. My grandparents and their daughter Anna live in a small, pine shotgun house a few hundred yards from the hospital. From the window of the room where they eat, they can see the red crescent floating on the field. At night my grandfather returns to the hospital to check on Lieutenant Jelal. He checks the stitches along the back of the flap of skin