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An Echo in My Blood: The Search for My Family's Hidden Past Hardcover – October 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From 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 keptAthe facts may dissolve away, but their consequences remain." Highly recommended.ADavid Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (October 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151002916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151002917
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of the critically acclaimed New
York Times best seller The World
Without Us, Alan Weisman is an
award-winning journalist whose reports
have appeared in HarperÄôs, the New
York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly,
Discover, and Orion, among others,
and on National Public Radio. A former
contributing editor to the Los Angeles
Times Magazine, he is a senior radio
producer for Homelands Productions
and teaches international journalism at
the University of Arizona. He lives in
western Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Walker on November 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book goes far beyond conventional memoir. The author's story shows how our world today is tangled with the past, and that we drag the past along with us, whether we know it or not. Through vivid personal stories, the writer shows how events as disparate as the Jewish pogroms in Russia, the McCarthy blacklist, and the current environmental crisis are all connected. He reminds us that we all share the inherited pain of immigration. A beautifully written, sad and funny, important book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nubar Alexanian on November 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Alan Weisman weaves a compelling tale that is so universal and familiar I kept losing track of who he was writing about--him or me--his family or mine. This is a soulful piece of work with analysis of events that is lovely, deeply moving and musical in how it is presented to the reader. I couldn't put this book down. He is a fine wordsmith and one of my favorite writers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Schley on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
How deeply moved my wife and I have been by this momentous, beautiful book, which both of us have found to be truly unforgettable. Echo in the blood, indeed. Weisman has found a way to widen a story that is essentially "personal" and familial by ramifying that story in multiple dimensions -- geo-politically, ecologically, historically and racially (the euphemism is "culturally," but this is a book that is unabashedly concerned with the complex meanings of racial inheritance). Most staggering to me are the book's accounts of visiting the weirdly transformed Ukrainian landscape around Chernobyl, the passages that combine the author's father's letters from combat in World-War-Two-era Europe with descriptions of the ongoing lives of relatives at home in Minnesota, and the chapters detailing (with intricate, agonizing subtlety) the deaths of his parents, one then the other. My wife's strongest response was a whole-body recognition of a certain truth, in which the book immerses its reader: As a people, as a species, we are making war on each other and on the living earth. Every one of us carries the burden and the damage of that war into our future. This is extraordinary writing, extraordinarily difficult to make sing, and Alan Weisman has brought it to song.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Price Lechtman on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a descendent of the family that Mr Weisman writes about. How ironic, that I discovered this book through a distant relative who knew I was looking for information on my great grandparents, on my mother's side. I am named for Bess Goldman, a relative of Mr. Weisman. I asked hundreds of questions about my family while my grandparents were alive, and most were stonewalled. After resigning myself to never knowing the truth, I read this book, and many mysteries are finally solved. I am now 56 and for most of my life the story of my family was concealed from me, I never knew why. In those days, living in denial saved you from the truth. I must be a distant cousin to Mr. Weisman, I had many relatives my grandparents would never tell me about, I never knew why they fled the Ukraine. this book has provided answers to lingering questions, echos, so to speak. I will be sending each my two children this book and will share it with remaining family members. Mr. Weisman's research is inspiring. I admire his tenacity in delving into the past with such enthusiasm. This book could be anybody's family, it is a microcosm of our journey from elsewhere to America. Pamela Price Lechtman
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