Tsarnaev brothers to be focus of new biography by Russian scholar

Brothers and Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be the focus of a major new biography by Russian American scholar and journalist Masha Gessen. Riverhead will publish the as-yet-untitled book.

Gessen is the author, most recently, of "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin." Like the Tsarnaevs, she moved to the Boston area when she was a Russian-speaking teen; she returned to Russia in her 20s to live and work there.

As a journalist, she covered the war in Chechnya, the Tsarnaevs' country of origin. Her publisher tells The Times that her work has included years of building contacts and networks in Dagestan, where the Tsarnaev family lived before coming to the U.S.

In a statement, Riverhead outlined plans for the biography of the Tsarnaev brothers:

"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."  

As of this writing, neither Dzhokhar nor his family members have told the publisher they will cooperate with the writing of the book. If Gessen must rely on other sources, she may turn to those like "Misha," who recently spoke to Christian Caryl of the New York Review of Books.

As Dave Cullen's book "Columbine" has shown, many of the early assumptions that are made in the media's glare after a tragedy turn out to be a misrepresentation of the truth. Cullen spent nearly a decade working on his book, however, and it's likely that the desire for a major book on the Tsarnaevs will mean it will arrive sooner. A publication date for the book about the Tsarnaev brothers has not been announced.


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