Thursday, April 9, 2015

Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen's new book is The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy.

From her interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air:

GROSS: So the Tsarnaev family moved to the U.S. shortly after 9/11, but not the whole family came; the parents and the youngest, Dzhokhar, came. But the parents waited until they got asylum before bringing over the rest of the children from Kazakhstan. So how old was Tamerlan, the oldest son, when he got here?

GESSEN: He was 16, which is a horrible age to emigrate. And it was also a very difficult moment for the family because, you know, here was their first born, who they believed was destined for greatness. But he was too old to really go to high school and get into a good college, so how were they going to make sure that he got sort of the greatness that he deserved? The whole family and some friends were mobilized to figure this out. And they decided that he was going to become a boxing star, that he was going become a boxer and join the U.S. Olympic team. And one of the weird tragedies of the story was that this wasn't an unrealistic dream. It wasn't crazy. He was that talented. He was - immediately after he started boxing, he started winning amateur competitions. He may very well have been on his way to the U.S. Olympic team. He didn't make it, apparently, because right around the time that he would've qualified, the amateur competitive circuit changed its rules to disqualify non-U.S. citizens. So he had permanent residence, but he didn't have citizenship, and he could no longer compete.

GROSS: His youngest sibling, Dzhokhar, was much more Americanized than Tamerlan was 'cause he got here earlier; he got here younger. So he was much more American in terms of, you know, having better English, knowing how kids did things in America.

GESSEN: Yes, he was 8 when he got here, so he started second grade in the United States. He was a good student. He spoke English without an accent. His high school classmates remember him as a social superstar. Everybody loved him. There was something that was happening to him around the time that he started college - or just before. I mean, he - there were weird and sometimes inexplicable...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue