Journalist Masha Gessen is working on a book about the Tsarnaev brothers for Riverhead.

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.   


Gessen is the only author I can think of who could tackle this subject without seeming exploitative, and is particularly well suited to making it more than just your typical true-crime story. Besides being an accomplished writer, Gessen has ties to both Russia and Boston—she emigrated to the city from Russia as a teenager, just as the Tsarnaevs did. She's reported on the Chechen war, and her most recent book was a biography of Vladimir Putin. As her editor, Rebecca Saletan, says, "There’s no other writer so supremely gifted with the talent, background, and access to bring this urgently important story to light.”

A publication date has yet to be set.

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