The Colgate Scene
January 2004

The Burning Tigris cover
The Burning Tigris
Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian's latest book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, debuted at No. 4 on the New York Times bestseller list in October, and was also ranked No. 7 on the Publishers Weekly list, No. 6 on the Wall Street Journal list, No. 50 on the USA Today list, and by early December was ranked No. 15 on the Los Angeles Times list.

The Burning Tigris, which tells the story of the 20th century's first genocide and America's first international human rights movement, has received strong reviews in publications such as the New York Times Book Review ("timely and welcome, an overwhelmingly convincing retort to genocide deniers"), Seattle Times ("meticulously researched and admirably wrought"), the Providence Journal ("comprehensive and crucial"), and Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the Best Books of 2003. Major scholars and historians including Robert Jay Lifton, Sir Martin Gilbert, and Paul Fussell have praised the book, which went into a second printing prior to its publication date.

When asked in a Publishers Weekly interview why he decided to write a conventional history of the Armenian genocide after memorializing it in his poetry and his memoir Black Dog of Fate, Balakian said, "I feel like I have followed the thread of truth across various genres."

The idea for the book, he said, came to him while on tour to promote Black Dog of Fate.

"People kept giving me texts about the Armenian genocide and the massacres of the 1890s; they would put things in my hand, send things to me," Balakian said. "Somebody sent me a chapter from Clara Barton's history of the Red Cross about her mission to Armenia in 1896; somebody sent me a 1917 anthology called Armenian Poems, edited by the Boston feminist and social critic Alice Stone Blackwell. I discovered that the Armenian story had an enormous American presence, and I thought, `Wow, I've got to do something with this.'"

The Burning Tigris includes eyewitness accounts, survivor narratives, official reports of the U.S. State Department and from British, German, and Austrian foreign offices, as well as Turkish sources, including the Ottoman parliamentary gazette that recorded the post-genocide court martial of the Turkish military officials responsible for atrocities against Armenians. There are also maps and extraordinary photographs, including eyewitness images from German military medic Armin T. Wegner, who risked his life taking searing photographs of the massacres and deportations.

The Burning Tigris, Lifton wrote, "is the only study of a particular genocide that fully records the motivations of the perpetrators, the suffering of the victims, and the responses of the outside world. Balak-ian brilliantly integrates all of these dimensions so that they become a single, compelling narrative."

Peter Balakian is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the humanities in Colgate's English department. He was also the first director of Colgate's Center for Ethics and World Societies. His memoir Black Dog of Fate won the 1998 PEN/Martha Albrand Prize.

Bestsellers by Colgate authors at the Colgate Bookstore*


  1. Common Nonsense — Andy Rooney '42
  2. Leading By Heart — Dick Cheshire '58
  3. Help Me to Heal — Bernie Siegel '53
  4. Prescriptions for Living — Bernie Siegel '53
  5. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning — Chris Hedges '79
  6. Straw Man — Vaughn Carney '68
  7. Unhittable! — Gabriel Schechter '73
  8. Heart of the Hudson Valley — Thomas Vincent '53
  9. In War and Peace — Guy Stever '70
  10. Love, Medicine, & Miracles — Bernie Siegel '53


  1. The Burning Tigris — Peter Balakian
  2. Hartshorne Speaking — Holmes Hartshorne
  3. The Book of the Year — Anthony Aveni
  4. Progressive Muslims on Justice, Gender, and Pluralism — Omid Safi
  5. Black Dog of Fate — Peter Balakian
  6. Girls — Frederick Busch
  7. A Memory of War — Frederick Busch
  8. The Night Inspector — Frederick Busch
  9. A Dangerous Profession — Frederick Busch
  10. June-tree — Peter Balakian
* (As of December 1, 2003)
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