Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

Russian punk rock activists take on the Kremlin

Summertime Peruse

Riverhead Books, 306 pp., $16 (paper)

No easy feat growing up in Putin's Russia, especially for a ragtag band of activist punks calling themselves Pussy Riot. Yet they drew international attention from the likes of Bono and Madonna when their protest concert at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow reaped bandmates Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina two years in Russian penal colonies for hooliganism. On a tight deadline, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen recaps the story, from Tolokonnikova's years as a viciously precocious child and the group's days as a young, disorganized art collective to hunger strikes during the trial. Neither of the jailed duo could play an instrument or carry a tune, but the suppressed Moscow art scene prompted Tolokonnikova and computer programmer Yekaterina Samutsevich (who "picked up" a bass) to gather a group of videographers, real musicians, and ballsy protest songs to build the act into an international point of rage. Short and succinct, Words Will Break Cement is thoughtfully organized and brutally honest in dealing with its flawed subjects, but the intricacies of the LGBT and feminist activists, not to mention the punk rock surrounding them, ultimately deserves more than this 306-page jaunt.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Pussy Riot, Bono, Madonna

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