Cover image for An echo in my blood : the search for a family's hidden past
An echo in my blood : the search for a family's hidden past
Weisman, Alan.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
426 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F614.M6 W398 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Weisman, an award-winning freelance journalist, examines the parallels between the lifelong themes of his work--immigration, violence, and displacement--and the history of his family. Weisman grew up listening to his volatile, demanding father rail against the Communist murderers of his own father and the confiscation of the family's possessions in the Ukraine at the turn of the century. Years later, an estranged uncle tells a different story, and Weisman begins to explore his family's heritage, eventually traveling to Chernobyl to learn about a series of bloody pogroms that initiated his family's migration to the U.S. Weisman intersperses painful and revealing memories of his parents and family history with his own work of examining the impact of U.S. policies on underdeveloped nations and the formation of immigrant populations. After a lifetime of conflict with his now deceased father, Weisman makes peace with the tyrannical man, who dealt with his heritage of pain and wrenching upheaval by reinventing his family history to ensure his own survival. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 keptÄthe facts may dissolve away, but their consequences remain." Highly recommended.ÄDavid Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.