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An Echo in My Blood: The Search for My Family's Hidden Past
     

An Echo in My Blood: The Search for My Family's Hidden Past

by Alan Weisman, Weisman
 

Throughout his childhood in Minneapolis, Alan Weisman was told that his grandfather was killed by Communists in the Ukraine at the turn of the century. When, as an adult, he meets a long-estranged uncle who tells a very different version of the story, Alan embarks on a search for the truth that takes him to the chemical ruin of Chernobyl and back in time to the

Overview


Throughout his childhood in Minneapolis, Alan Weisman was told that his grandfather was killed by Communists in the Ukraine at the turn of the century. When, as an adult, he meets a long-estranged uncle who tells a very different version of the story, Alan embarks on a search for the truth that takes him to the chemical ruin of Chernobyl and back in time to the Bolshevik Revolution. He discovers the paradoxical rationale for his father's vehement political and social conservatism as well as a more universal truth: that all immigrant families, in order to survive in a new world, must create protective family myths. One of these myths hides the true fate of his grandfather-a nightmare too terrible to express. At once an examination of his rootless generation and a look at the hopes and dreams of his forefathers, An Echo in My Blood takes you from the secret heart of an America you might not recognize to the pogroms of turn-of-the-century Kiev.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For the children of Jewish immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century, growing up American was both a fortune and a curse. A childhood free from pogroms and persecution came at the cost of a severed genealogy. Forced identity changes, destroyed documents and a reluctance to record the travails of the old country often left first-generation American Jews ignorant of their most immediate family history. Weisman (Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World), a world-traveled journalist and the son of Ukrainian Jews who fled the massacres of the Russian Civil War in 1923, began his research while on assignment in Chernobyl. This book is his effort to come to terms with the disparity between his own privileged life and his father's struggle to make his name in a new country. Weisman weaves his childhood memories with the received stories of his many aunts and uncles. He then tackles the veracity of what he calls "congenital truths" by returning to his father's birthplace of Mala Viska, a small village between Kiev and Odessa, where he tries to fill the gaps in his family's clouded history. Weisman's narrative sometimes risks becoming monotonous, as segments are weighed down by excessive detail and incongruous discourses on his research into environmental hazards in South America and an unlucky romance with an Argentine woman who shares his family name. But Weisman has a gift for language, and his personal search for family and identity will move anyone who recognizes the universality of love, loss and humanity. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1992, when Weisman's parents died, his aunt embraced him and his sister. "Now you're orphans, just like us," she murmured. A year later, in Chernobyl, he told a local official, "You know, my father was...from [the] Ukraine." At age 11, however, his father had fled to the United States after his father was assassinated. But was it the White Army Cossacks or the Bolsheviks (as his militantly anti-Communist father insisted) who murdered his grandfather? In this elegant memoir, Weisman ties together his complicated relationship with his oppressive father and his present job reporting on the "unprecedented societal dislocation" taking place in the Third World today. The result is remarkable, sensitive history, where the present supplies meaning to the past, and the past provides context for the present. "Displaced people create new histories, or revise old ones, to define themselves in alien settings," observes Weisman. "Family secrets can't really be kept--the facts may dissolve away, but their consequences remain." Highly recommended.--David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Everyone's family history is endlessly fascinating—to them. To avoid boring a non-family member, however, requires either great skill as a storyteller or extremely colorful relatives. Journalist Weisman (Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, not reviewed), who has contributed to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times magazines, among others, sets himself a daunting task in his multigenerational chronicle of his family's journey from the Ukrainian shtetl to the Minnesota middle class. To the author's surprise, this upward march includes innumerable lies that his relatives told to each other and to themselves in order to survive and prosper. The consequences of these lies, both moral and practical, are at the heart of the family saga, which is dominated in the retelling by Weisman's father: football hero, labor lawyer, political insider, and domestic tyrant. While his relationships with his family make for painful reading, Weisman skillfully conveys how his father's character was shaped by a profound insecurity that allowed him to achieve traditional success but lessened him as a person. In reaching this insight, Weisman does what we all do when we reach adulthood: see our parents not as unassailable archetypes but as flawed human beings. As the French say, to understand all is to forgive all. Despite his attempt to understand his family heritage, Weisman seems a long way from fully forgiving. There is much unresolved bitterness here and an adolescent instinct to make himself the center of attention. In relating the discovery of his mother's long-hidden abortion, why else interject: "How fathomless the loss. Because I'd been there." Despite some fine writingand genuinely interesting social history, this exploration of the self through the lens of family history is too narrow a subject to sustain this lengthy narrative.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151002917
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/15/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.31(d)

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