Gary Indiana at The London Review of Books:
The travails of the Tsarnaev clan are almost too numerous and tangled to itemise. The new life in America started with the thorny process of asylum-seeking, scrambling for housing and off-the-books work (asylum applicants are prohibited from employment or collecting benefits for a year), finding schools for the children, and trying to decipher local conditions. The Tsarnaevs landed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was a mixed blessing: a liberal enclave of top-notch universities and rapidly gentrifying neighbourhoods, its contiguous working-class areas a Hogarthian reminder of the destiny awaiting failure. A well-educated, Russian-speaking, guardian angel landlady, Joanna Herlihy, entered their lives at a propitious moment. Herlihy, who ‘for most of her adult life … had been trying to save the world’, can be viewed retrospectively as a mixed blessing too. Untiringly helpful in practical matters, she sheltered her new tenants behind a baffle of contentious idealism, ratifying their feelings of persecution when wishes didn’t come true. The stellar expectations of the Tsarnaevs eroded in increments. Within a few years, they collected grievances like baseball cards.
Gessen writes that kids in newly arrived families ‘stop being kids, because the adults have lost their bearings … they go through a period of intense suffering and dislocation made all the more painful for being forced and unexpected. But at the other end of the pain, they locate their roles and settle into them, claiming their places in the new world.’ Most of the Tsarnaev children, however, did less and less well as time went on. The family pattern had been set by their parents: when troubles piled up after every fresh start, they just moved somewhere else.