May 2, 2013

Masha Gessen is writing a book about the Tsarnaev brothers


Masha Gessen (image via Riverhead Books)

Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday it was announced that Masha Gessen, author of the excellent biography of Vladimir PutinThe Man Without A Face, will be writing a book about Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who allegedly orchestrated the bombing of the Boston Marathon last month. According to a press release from the book’s publisher, Riverhead Books,

The book will explain who the brothers were, where they came from, what shaped them, and how they came to do what they appear to have done. From their displaced beginnings, as descendants of ethnic Chechens deported to Central Asia in the Stalin era, it will follow the brothers from strife-ridden Kyrgyzstan to war-torn Dagestan, and then, as new émigrés, to the looking-glass, utterly disorienting peace and order of Cambridge, Mass. Most crucially, it will reconstruct the struggle that ensued for each of the brothers, between assimilation and alienation, and their alleged metamorphosis into a new breed of home-grown terrorist, with their feet on American soil but their loyalties elsewhere, a split in identity that can be the breeding ground for a deadly sense of mission.

Writing in the New York TimesJulie Bosman notes that Gessen is particularly well-qualified to write this book as, “she is fluent in Russian and English, has reported from Chechnya and emigrated to the Boston area when she was a teenager.” Gessen is seen as something of an expert on Chechnya; for instance, shortly after the Beslan School hostage crisis in 2004, Gessen provided an excellent overview of Chechen separatists and their motivations for Slate. In an interview with The Atlantic Wire‘s Esther Zuckerman, Riverhead publicist Jynne Martin noted that Gessen has a “network of contacts” in Dagestan and had been overseeing Radio Liberty‘s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings over the past two weeks. On Tuesday, it was announced that Gessen was leaving Radio Liberty, where she had been director for seven controversial months, to work on a new book—presumably the biography of the Tsarnaevs. There’s no firm word yet as to how this will affect another project of Gessen’s, a book on the dissident band Pussy Riot, but on Twitter yesterday Martin indicatedthat Gessen will be working on both books simultaneously.

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Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.