Black Elephants


Black Elephants

A Memoir

Karol Nielsen

240 pages


October 2011


$16.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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October 2011


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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.

Author Bio

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.


“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

“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

“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

Table of Contents

A Note on Names

The New Zealand Sheep Farmer and the Recruit

Machu Picchu



Mexican Pyramids

Long Distance


Give Peace a Chance

Black Elephants

Not a Good Soldier



Cappuccino, Cheesecake, and Gas Masks

Sitting Ducks

The Promise


A Lonely Trip

Hebrew Lessons

Scandinavian Worker

Pampered American


Nine-Point-Two Miles

Litmus Test

Better to Smile

Hermit Crab

Shalom, Shalom

Collateral Damage



Selected Bibliography

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