In her 2014 book, Words Will Break Cement, Masha Gessen wrote: ‘to create, and to confront, one has to be an outcast.’ The book was about Russian feminist activists Pussy Riot, but themes of alienation and confrontation have coloured much of Gessen’s work and life.
A prolific journalist in both Russia and the United States, Gessen is Russia’s leading LGBT activist and a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin. Gessen is perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for shedding light, and providing astute analysis, on international headline-making stories from Russia – such as the emergence of Pussy Riot and controversies around the Sochi Winter Olympics.
In her new book, The Tsarnaev Brothers, Gessen turns her attention to traumatic events that have taken place on the soil of her adopted home. The book tells the story of the Boston bombers, and explores the theme of split identity in immigrant America, as well as the disastrous consequences of social dislocation.
In conversation with Maxine Beneba Clarke, Gessen talks about immigrant identity, activism and an extraordinary career in journalism.
Masha Gessen is an acclaimed Russian-American journalist and the author of ten books of nonfiction, including bestsellers The Man Without a Face and Words Will Break Cement. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Vanity Fair, and many other publications, and has received numerous awards.
Her most recent book is The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. She is a staff writer at The New Yorker. A longtime resident of Moscow, she now lives in New York.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Maxine's short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, the Age, Meanjin, the Saturday Paper and the Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015.