Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

Peter Balakian
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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. What singer did the man in the motorcycle jacket on the bus remind Peter of?

2. To what town was Balakian taking his girlfriend when he refused to return home for his grandmother's memorial service?

3. Approximately how many Armenians were slaughtered in Diarbekir in 1915?

4. Where had Balakian learned the stories of the Bible?

5. In what grade was Peter during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Short Essay Questions

1. What was Balakian's reaction to the folktales his grandmother would frequently tell him?

2. How did Balakian's grandmother establish a strong bond with him through cooking?

3. In what ways did life at Auntie Anna's and Uncle Steve's house differ from life in the Balakian household?

4. Describe the Wall family, who were Balakian's neighbors in Tenafly.

5. What did the phrase "the old country" mean to Balakian as a child?

6. What were some of the reasons Balakian likely did not seek out information about Armenia while he was still in college?

7. How did Balakian's mother differ from most of the other mothers on Crabtree Lane in Tenafly?

8. How did Balakian's family's attachment to food reflect their ancestors' history?

9. In what way was Balakian's attachment to the Jewish families in his first neighborhood ultimately superficial, and could it have been deeper?

10. Why was Balakian so unnerved by his grandmother's constant doting on him at family gatherings?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Balakian wrote frequently about the central role food played in his extended family. What importance does food have in Armenian culture? How did the experience of starvation during the genocide impact Armenian immigrants to the U.S.? Would food still have had the same importance if the Armenians had not experienced starvation? How do immigrant families transmit their culture to their children through food? How do they express their love at the dinner table?

Essay Topic 2

Balakian's grandmother initially sought compensation from the Turkish government for her family's sufferings. How important is compensation to the victims of state-sponsored terror? Can any compensation be sufficient or does the compensation have a deeper, more symbolic meaning? Did the grandmother's filing of the documents help her process the events? Can there ever be sufficient compensation for the Armenian people, especially almost a century after the genocide?

Essay Topic 3

Before the massacres began, the Turkish government rounded up and executed 250 Armenian intellectuals. How did this serve as a precursor for the mass killings to follow? Why would a genocidal government first kill a community's intellectuals? Did it make it easier to commit mass murder by eliminating those who would be most articulate in denouncing the crimes? Have there been other genocides preceded by the rounding up of a certain subset of the victim population?

(see the answer keys)

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