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The Brothers : the road to an American…

The Brothers : the road to an American tragedy (udgave 2015)

af Masha Gessen

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1485175,946 (3.15)1
"On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 264 others. In the ensuing manhunt, Tamerlan Tsarnaev died, and his younger brother Dzhokhar was captured and ultimately charged on thirty federal counts. Yet long after the bombings and the terror they sowed, after all the testimony and debate, what we still haven't learned is why. Why did the American Dream go so wrong for two immigrants? How did such a nightmare come to pass?"--Amazon.com.… (mere)
Titel:The Brothers : the road to an American tragedy
Forfattere:Masha Gessen
Info:New York, New York : Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2015.
Samlinger:Læst, men ikke ejet
Nøgleord:non-fiction, crime, terrorism, New England, Massachusetts, Boston, brothers, Chechnya, Dagestan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, immigration

Work Information

The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy af Masha Gessen


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Viser 5 af 5
It's an interesting if difficult read for someone who was affected by the bombing. Gessen provides some good background on the environment that the Tsarnaevs came out of but cherry picks details from their lives to portray them in a way more sympathetic than I could really take. I think her point is that they were nothing special; if so, why did this happen? There are also moments when she is tone-deaf and her analogies miss the mark. Saying that the Tsarnaev brothers were the Russian equivalent of African-Americans is.... no. I get that they were ethnic minorities who stood out and were recognizable as such but... no. The conspiracy stuff is weird also and doesn't ring true for me. Other reviewers have summarized my feelings about this book well so I won't belabor. But yeah. Weird book, missing bits, too easy on the brothers and their parents. ( )
1 stem bostonbibliophile | Nov 27, 2018 |
Tells the story of the Boston Marathon Bombers from the perspective of their ties in Chechnya and surrounding areas. Once they are caught, she switches focus from the brothers to other Chechen Americans, including the friends of Jahar, describing their treatment by the FBI (it wasn't nice or fair; the presumption was that they were all guilty by association if nothing else). She ends by pointing out the several puzzling elements to the case (e.g., the uninvestigated triple murder several years before, the claim by the FBI to not recognize Tamerlan despite its having investigated him only two years previously, and the family on almost an annual basis for a decade) to wondering if Tamerlan was not an FBI informant gone rogue. One has wonder. If, however, you want a fuller description of the legal trial of the surviving brother, you'll need an additional read. But this one should definitely be in the mix. ( )
1 stem dono421846 | Jun 27, 2018 |
This was a strange book. In light of the recent anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing and the close of the trial against one of the brothers, this seemed like a good pick up. I was intrigued by the title and the idea that it was not about the bombing itself, but rather what led up to it and its aftermath. I did not know and was somewhat expecting being left with answers, but the book is a little odd and I'm not entirely sure what a reader is supposed to get out of it.
It's the story of the family Tsarnaev, their origins, their struggles and their hopes and dreams. I thought the author started off relatively well, by discussing Dagestan, the place in history and geography, what sort of background the parents came from. But I have to admit, I was not as interested in the parents.
We see the family move to the US in the hopes of a better life and to achieve what some of their countrypeople have: becoming lawyers, marrying and having children without the threat of war (although the family would arrive not long after 9/11), and moving up. This was not to be so. They did not adjust, did not assimilate, and despite the talents of the family members (their mom is gifted with languages, Tamerlan was a good boxer, etc.) they are unable to achieve what they had hoped.
And then from here the book becomes murky. The author traces the elder brother's return to Dagestan, the sort of drifter Dzhokhar had become (the author states he chose the least academically challenging of the schools that accepted him, although doesn't name the others), without discussing the details. It's not really clear what exactly drew the brothers to create bombs. It's like the younger brother was a stoner in college and then he tells his friend he can build bombs. Uh, what?
The author sort drops these two once the bombing occurs (Tamerlan dies not long after in a confrontation with the police/getting run over by his brother) and focuses on the friends who were arrested and interrogated for being connected or somehow helping Tamerlan and Dzhokhar hide evidence, etc.
I've read reviews critical of the book, saying it's too sympathetic, but I think the problem is elsehwere: there's so much that is missing. I understand the author's focus, but the way the book is constructed I just do not understand what the reader was supposed to extrapolate. I do not consider myself an expert, but there were articles talking about the parents after the bombing, (they disappear pretty much by the last part of the book), about uncle Ruslan (who called his nephews "losers), Tamerlan's wife (who briefly appears in the book), etc.
The author sometimes skips around in time and I kept pausing because I know I've read other pieces and articles about pieces of this story, yet they are not mentioned here. Indeed, according to the bibliography the author relied almost entirely on books,  but it's clear she did interviews too. Did she read the various news articles? She discusses some of the media perceptions and coverage, but it even with Gessen's narrow focus I couldn't help but think she was leaving stuff out. And I could not say if that was to make the book more sympathetic on her subjects, but it just seems sloppy.
This was really emphasized to me when the author states that Chechen men beat their wives to show their power. Um. There are no footnotes or endnotes, and while I understand that the author is journalist who did research and has reported on Chechnya, forgive me for wanting some citation for that statement.
There are some good parts at the end that will make us question about what we were told about this story, about whether the use of force was really justified, etc. But some of the omissions are quite odd.
It was an interesting read, but it's obviously not at all authoritative. It was worth the read, but I'll be picking up other books to supplement this one. ( )
2 stem HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
The background information on Russia and Chechnya and family dynamics was interesting and enlightening. Gessen also investigates what happened to Dzhorkhar's friends and Tamerlan's acquaintances after the bombing, Finally, she reports on the conspiracy theories and agrees that the FBI could have been involved in setting up the brothers who took it a step further than expected. The writing is reporterly and unexceptional. ( )
  jconnell | Sep 20, 2015 |
When Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested for the Boston Marathon bombing, my husband and I got into an argument.

"Who cares where he's from?" he said. "Everyone's talking about his family being from Chechnya like that's enough to make him a terrorist in and of itself. He's an immigrant. Okay. How is his being from Chechnya any different from his being from Ireland?"

I don't know if he picked Ireland because it's a country he's heard of, because I'm Irish, or because we're both old enough to remember a time when saying you were from Ireland would lead a listener to thoughts of (and possibly questions about) the IRA. I do know that he's someone who's morally opposed to putting people in ill-fitting boxes, and he'd just come home from a long day with coworkers who had no problem with the idea that Muslim immigrant = terrorist just waitin' to happen.

"I understand what you mean," I said. "And I know everyone's being a big collective idiot about he and his brother being Muslims, and I'm sick of it, too. But there's something wrong with your example. There's something more going on than that. Being from Ireland isn't anything like being from Chechnya."

I had to wait for Masha Gessen to write The Brothers before I could figure out exactly what I meant. I felt vindicated when I got to page 60 and read this:

American society, perhaps more than some others, goes through distinct cycles, separated by shifts in the national psyche. But to a new immigrant, nothing was here before – and there is no inkling that things will be different after. There is only the mood of the present moment, and this mood becomes what America feels like. The Tsarnaevs arrived a few months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington had united Americans in fear.

This was the idea I'd been feeling around for that tired night in the kitchen when I'd been trying to argue with my husband and wash the dishes at the same time and had ended by doing a lousy job at both. Being an immigrant is tough no matter where you're from or how much you wanted to live in your new country. Being an immigrant from a country most Americans have only heard of in relation to the War on Terror – well, that makes you the redheaded stepchild of the immigrant family, to say the least.

That's the story Gessen tells. Bear in mind that she started work on this book practically the day Dzhokhar was arrested. I started reading it the week his death sentence was announced.

This book is not about his trial, or about how he and his brother went about bombing the marathon. It's about who was arrested for that bombing and why.

It's also the story of the banality of evil. To me, the most shocking part of this book is – well, how boring the brothers were before it happened. They weren't particularly intelligent or devout. Neither of them seem as if they were interested in or engaged with the world or even their own lives. If they had a reason for waking up in the morning, I couldn't tell you what it was. They just don't come across as the kind of people who could care enough about anything to do something violent.

They reminded me of a character from a novel I love, Lolly Willowes:

Laura was not in any way religious. She was not even religious enough to speculate towards irreligion.

I'm not naïve enough to think that anyone who commits a violent crime must be some wild-eyed fanatic and/or evil genius. Frankly, as a smallish middle-aged woman living in an increasingly weird city, I'm starting to wonder if all men are just one bad day and one cheap gun away from going on a killing spree. But I did expect to get some sense of why the brothers did what they did.

Maybe one of the points of this book is that there isn't any such sense to be had. Excuse me for quoting at length, but I think this is important:

Very soon, many of Tamerlan's and Jahar's friends would be telling the FBI and the media that it was impossible that the brothers were the bombers – there had been no sign. Surely, the friends would say, if the two had been plotting something so huge and horrible, they would have seemed distracted. Or emotional. Or pensive. Or somehow, clearly, not themselves. But this assumption was a misconception. The psychiatrist and political scientist Jerrold Post, who has been studying terrorists for decades, writes, "Terrorists are not depressed, severely emotionally disturbed, or crazed fanatics." Political scientist Louise Richardson, an undisputed star in the tiny academic field of terrorism studies, writes of terrorists: "Their primary shared characteristic is their normalcy, insofar as we understand the term. Psychological studies of terrorism are virtually unanimous on this point."

Nor do terrorists tend to behave out of character just before committing an act that, to them, appears perfectly rational and fully justified. One of the September 11 hijackers called his wife in Germany on the morning of the attacks to tell her he loved her; she apparently heard nothing extraordinary in his voice. Having made the decision to commit an act of terrorism, the future bomber – even a suicide bomber – develops, it would appear, a sort of two-track mind. On one track, life goes on exactly as before; on the other, he is preparing for the event that will disrupt his life or even end it. It is precisely the ordinary nature of the man and the extraordinary effect of the act about to be committed that ensure the two tracks never cross.

This passage kept coming to mind as I listened to a news report about the mother of the gunman in the recent shooting at a Tunisian beach. The woman was horrified by what her son had done, and was frantically trying to make sense of it. What had she missed? Her son – an electrical engineering student who had a girlfriend and liked soccer and break-dancing – was outstandingly ordinary.

I might have had trouble believing that before I read this book. I have no trouble believing it now.

Sadly, I think The Brothers should be required reading. The history it covers is interesting; the ideas it offers are vital. ( )
1 stem Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
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"On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 264 others. In the ensuing manhunt, Tamerlan Tsarnaev died, and his younger brother Dzhokhar was captured and ultimately charged on thirty federal counts. Yet long after the bombings and the terror they sowed, after all the testimony and debate, what we still haven't learned is why. Why did the American Dream go so wrong for two immigrants? How did such a nightmare come to pass?"--Amazon.com.

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