Putin critic, gay activist to speak in Tucson

“Speaking truth to power” is a way of life for Russian-American Jewish journalist Masha Gessen. An outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch supporter of gay rights and a chronicler for the voiceless, the award-winning author will speak at four community events during “A Day With Masha Gessen” on Monday, Feb. 2. The day will culminate with Gessen delivering “Putin’s War Against the West,” part of the Shaol and Louis Pozez Memorial Lectureship Series, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

masha_gessenIn addition to authoring several books, three of which are recommended reading for her Tucson visit, Gessen is a former Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University and has written for the New York Times, The Guardian, U.S. News and World Report, Vanity Fair, New Republic, Granta and Slate. “The Myth of the Russian Oligarchs,” her most recent NYT Op-Ed, appeared on Dec. 10.

Gessen, 47, was born in Russia and emigrated to the Boston area with her parents and brother when she was 14. She is fluent in both Russian and English. Gessen’s seventh book will be on the Tsarnaev brothers, whose trial for the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing began Monday. She has reported from Chechnya, where the Tsarnaev family has roots. “The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy” will be published in April.

Returning to Moscow as a noted international journalist in 1991, Gessen left with her partner and children in 2013. “When Putin declared war on gay families, it was time to leave Russia,” she said. At the end of 2012 the Duma, or Russian parliament, outlawed the adoption of Russian orphans by U.S. citizens. Gessen is Russian but holds an American passport, plus her teenage son was adopted from a Russian orphanage.

Also in 2012, the Russian Parliament voted for a law banning “homosexual propaganda,” which was defined as the “dissemination of information that may harm the spiritual or physical development of minors, including forming in them the erroneous impression of the social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations” (www.slate.com, Aug. 26, 2013). “I came here [to America] as a Jew, left as a journalist and returned as a gay refugee,” said Gessen in Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper.

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