Black Elephants (Paperback)

A Memoir

By Karol Nielsen

Bison Books, 9780803235373, 240pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2011

List Price: 16.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


An aspiring writer and reporter, Karol Nielsen went trekking through the Peruvian Andes at the height of the Shining Path terror, looking for adventure and a good story. She found Aviv, an Israeli traveler fresh out of his mandatory military service—a war-weary veteran of the first intifada—dreaming about peace. Black Elephants follows this idealistic pair as they explore the Americas, until Aviv, inexorably drawn to his homeland, asks Karol to come with him to Israel. There, the couple’s lovingly laid plans—for Aviv to attend university, and for Karol to work on a kibbutz, study Hebrew, and get to know his family—are suddenly tested by the eruption of the first Gulf War. Nielsen’s memoir paints a poignant and harrowing picture of love during wartime. Against a backdrop of bursting bombs and air-raid sirens, gas masks and sealed rooms, relationships are frayed, and romance becomes a distant memory. This story, so candidly and clearly told, powerfully illustrates the terror, loneliness, and absurdity of war and its invisible casualties.

About the Author

Karol Nielsen has contributed to Smith Magazine’s The Moment anthology and other publications, including the New York Times, New York Newsday, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Guernica, Lumina, and Epiphany—before she became nonfiction editor of the magazine. Excerpts from this memoir were selected as Notable Essays in The Best American Essays. Her poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. She teaches memoir writing at New York University.

Praise For Black Elephants: A Memoir

“Karol Nielsen presents a complex love story for our time, one that plumbs the depths of war and terror while exploring the impact of violence on the human psyche and relationships. Black Elephants is forthright, searching, wistful, and full of heart.”—Sonya Huber, author of Opa Nobody

— Sonya Huber

“Impeccably researched and luminous in its attention to detail, this memoir is a devastating memorial to peace.” —Kaylie Jones, author of Lies My Mother Never Told Me

— Kaylie Jones

“In a world that continues to bleed from the wounds of intolerance, here comes a love story with the power to heal.”—Michael Soussan, author of Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy

— Michael Soussan