cover image Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

Masha Gessen. Riverhead, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59463-219-8

Bestselling author Gessen (The Man Without a Face) chronicles the progression of Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Kat Samutsevich from their idealistic beginnings as young intellectuals to their arrest and prosecution for hooliganism as the punk rock collective Pussy Riot. The events are set in the background of Putin's Russia with its rigged elections, "bourgeois morality," and the corrupt Russian Orthodox Church that ignited a firestorm of protest. The author sets the stage with early Pussy Riot actions in Moscow Metro stations and the Red Square, before culminating in the notorious event, in which they used the performance art piece "Mother of God, Get Rid of Putin" as a form of protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. She details their frightening arrest and interrogation in which Samutsevich was threatened with rape and months of pretrial detention. What follows is a trial reminiscent of those from the Soviet era, with bumbling defense attorneys, pearl-clutching witnesses, a bomb threat, and a botched political action, while the defendants watched from within a clear Plexiglas aquarium. Readers visit the penal colony in Mordovia where Tolokonnikova's family travel 11 hours to sit with her for a mere two and a half. Interspersed throughout are Pussy Riot lyrics, correspondence with Gessen, friends and journalists, and the entirety of the closing statements at the trial. Gessen's manner of storytelling is exhilarating and cinematic and this important book will be the definitive text on Pussy Riot. (Jan.)