Alan Weisman

An Echo In My Blood

A Note from the Author / Reviews / An Excerpt / Purchase

As a child, award-winning journalist Alan Weisman had often heard his father tell the family legend of  how Communists murdered his grandfather in the Ukraine. But years later, he meets a long-estranged uncle who recounts a very different version. His search to determine the truth leads Weisman from his Minnesota boyhood to Chernobyl and finally back to the monstrous pogroms of  the Russian Revolution. On the way, he learns that many of his family's stories have been altered, and  discovers a universal reality: that all immigrant families, in order to survive in a new world, must create protective myths—like the one that hides the true fate of his grandfather. While unraveling his own tangled heritage, Weisman's work for a National Public Radio series titled Vanishing Homelands introduces him to a new generation of immigrants wrenched from their native soil, all desperate to reinvent themselves. These encounters become a resonant counterpoint to Weisman's personal search: his often harrowing adventures in places like rebel-torn Colombia, and even under Antarctica's ozone hole, strangely begin to echo his father's saga through turn-of-the-century Russia, the Depression, World War II, and the McCarthy era. Ultimately, they help to reveal his family's truth, and show how history—and secrets—echo on through generations.

At once an examination of his rootless age and the real legacy of his forefathers, An Echo in My Blood shows that we inherit not only our parents' traits but their struggles to survive their times—times that reverberate through our own lives more deeply than we might acknowledge.

An Echo In My Blood

"An Echo in My Blood is a wonderful book—a fascinating, very powerful and honest memoir, rich in texture, emotion, revelation. Poignant, and often heartbreaking, it is also a fabulous and deeply touching history lesson. Miracles of survival resonate on every page despite the devastation of war and other cataclysms. Alan Weisman describes the dilemmas of our planet today as he delves with brutal intimacy into the heart of his own family in an important chronicle of love and hate and all that lies between. The author is an exceptional writer, a gifted son, a courageous detective. This is by far the most gripping, thought-provoking, and rewarding story that I have read in a long time, and it will remain with me always."
— John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War and The Sterile Cuckoo

"In this elegant memoir, Weisman ties together his complicated relationship with his oppressive father and his present job reporting on the 'unprecedented social dislocation' taking place in the Third World today. The result is remarkable, sensitive history, where the present supplies meaning to the past, and the past provides context for the present. 'Displaced people create new histories, or revise old ones, to define themselves in alien settings,' observes Weisman. 'Family secrets can't really be kept—the facts may dissolve away, but their consequences remain.' Highly recommended."
— Library Journal

"Alan Weisman is a courageous and intrepid journalist who never veers from the hard story or complex issue. He was born to write An Echo in My Blood, but what a moving and absorbing narrative—equal parts memoir and detective story—he has wrought! He unravels the knotted and tangled threads of personal history, moving closer to a deeply hidden family secret. His discoveries after a globe-trotting quest are at once personal and universal. Datelined in the human heart, An Echo in My Blood will reach and uplift every reader."
— David Haward Bain, author of Empire Express and Sitting in Darkness

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Selected Works


The World Without Us

An Echo in My Blood: The Search for a Family's Hidden Past

Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World

La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico


University of Arizona Spring Commencement Speech
May 15, 2009

Three Planetary Futures Vanity Fair, April 2008

Earth Without People

Cartoon Op-ed

Mining the Imagination for New Energy

The Cocaine Connection

Diamonds in the Wild

Power Trip

The Sacred and Profane

Vanishing Forests, Endangered People


Chiloé: A Bridge Too Far?

Resurrecting the Zápara

Laguna Madre

Straw Bale Homes in Mexico