Beslan: Shattered Innocence by Lynn Milburn Lansford
This is one of my signed copies from the BEA. I finished this book a few days ago, and have kept putting off reviewing it for you, because I so wish it was different. Beslan was the site, in September of 2006, of the horrible school seige and then massacre on the first day of school. Hundred of people were killed, most of them children, and those who survived will bear the physical and psychological scars forever. Just typing that, I am horrified that this event ever happened, and I wanted to learn more from this book.
The book means well, it really does. It contains the first-hand experiences of an American woman, the author, who travelled to Beslan after the event happened, hoping to help bring hope and a message of love to the families of Beslan. It also has many first-hand accounts from children and adults who lived through the seige, and family members of those who were killed. But it is all very matter-of-fact, and repetitious.
I wanted to learn in this book. But it takes for granted too much – that we know where Beslan is, that we are familiar with Ossetian religious and political history, that we are intimately familiar with the Chechen crisis, know what or who Ingush is or was – and that is too much to assume. I ended up Googling too many things, and that takes you out of the book, literally and mentally.
I even would have been satisfied if Mrs. Milburn Lansford recounted her own strong thoughts or feelings, some emotion – anything. But it tries so hard, I think, to be impartial, and that is a failing in this case. It comes across as dispassionate.
I thought maybe when i got to the chapter about the trial of the one captured terrorist we would at last get something substantial, but it was just a litany of this or that part of Russian society or government failing, or more to the pint, blaming some other faction for the failures and taking no responsibility,
I am outraged at the events that happened – whosoever’s fault it was. I want a reason why – some history of the Chechen conflict which apparently drove these men and women to commit such an act. I want outrage at the shirking of responsibility! I want to feel the anger that much exist. But the book just fails to deliver. If I read between the lines, and do my own research, I can find stuff out. But I expected more from the book than a litany of sadness and broken lives with no resolution or hope.
I wanted to like the book, or be informed or touched or motivated by it, but I didn’t and wasn’t. There are many photographs, but they are clumped together in one section – I know it’s cheaper to print that way, but feel they would have been more powerful near the text that refers to them. Sorry, Mrs. Millburn Lansford, I know you meant well.
If the subject interests you, you’d be better served by googling for info yourself, sadly. I’m not heartless, honest! It is odd how little we hear about the Chechnyan conflict here in the West, given how connected most of the world is. But I guess the Russian media still has a powerful hold on what leaves its borders.