After the killing, risking her own life, Sarbjit fought secretly for justice for nine long, scared years. Eventually, with immense bravery, she became the first person within a murderer’s family ever to go into open court in an honour killing trial as the Prosecution’s key witness, and the first to waive her anonymity in such a trial. As a result of her testimony, the trial led to the first successful prosecution of an honour killing without the body ever being found.
But her story doesn’t end there. Since the trial, her life has been threatened; her own husband arrested after an allegation of intimidation. Shamed is a story of fear and of horror – but also of immense courage, and a woman who risked everything to see that justice was done.
Sarbjit Kaur Athwal is a British Indian, whose sister-in-law Surjit was the victim of an honour killing. Sarbjit secretly and bravely campaigned for justice for Surjit, seeking murder convictions for her husband’s mother and brother. They were jailed, but Sarbjit continues to receive death threats and ostracisation by the Sikh community.
She has since become a police community support officer, in gratitude for the staunch support of Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll.
Growing up in a household as generic as Midwestern Jews get, author Eric Konigsberg always wished there was something different about his family, something exotic and mysterious, even shocking. When he was sent off to boarding school, he learned from an ex-cop security guard that there was: His great-uncle Harold, in prison in upstate New York, was a legendary Mafia enforcer, suspected by the FBI of upwards of twenty murders.
Konigsberg had uncovered a shameful, long-hidden family secret. His grandfather, a Jewish Horatio Alger story who had become a respected merchant through honesty and hard work, never spoke of his baby brother. When other relatives could be coaxed into talking about him, he wasn't "Kayo" Konigsberg, the "smartest hit man" and "toughest Jew" described by cops and associates; he was Uncle Heshy, the loudmouth nogoodnik and smalltime con, long since written off as dead. Intrigued, Konigsberg ignored his family's protests and arranged a meeting, which inspired the acclaimed New Yorker piece this book is based on.
In Blood Relation, Konigsberg portrays Harold as a fascinating, paradoxical character: both brutal and winning, a cold-blooded killer and a larger-than-life charmer who taught himself to read as an adult and served as his own lawyer in two major trials, to riotous effect. Functioning by turns as Kayo's pursuer, jailhouse scribe, pawn, and antagonist, Konigsberg traces his great-uncle's checkered and outlandish life and investigates his impact on his family and others who crossed his path, weaving together strands of family, Jewish identity, justice, and post-war American history.