Half In Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate

Overview


“Judith Kitchen has written a book that is at once clear and accessible and at the same time insistently complex. Her effortlessly constructed hybrids make Half in Shade part memoir, part speculation, part essay, a demonstration of the interactive art of seeing, and finally for me, a beautifully sustained meditation. It is at that meditative level that the book’s potent, unsentimental emotive power gathers.” —Stuart Dybek

When Judith Kitchen discovered boxes of family photos in...

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Half In Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate

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Overview


“Judith Kitchen has written a book that is at once clear and accessible and at the same time insistently complex. Her effortlessly constructed hybrids make Half in Shade part memoir, part speculation, part essay, a demonstration of the interactive art of seeing, and finally for me, a beautifully sustained meditation. It is at that meditative level that the book’s potent, unsentimental emotive power gathers.” —Stuart Dybek

When Judith Kitchen discovered boxes of family photos in her mother's closet, it sparked curiosity and speculation. Piecing together her memories with the physical evidence in the photos, Kitchen explores the gray areas between the present and the past, family and self, certainty and uncertainty. The result is a lyrical, ennobling anatomy of a heritage, family, mother-daughter relationships, and the recovery from an illness that captures with precision the forces of the heart and mind when "none of us knows what lies beyond the moment, outside the frame."

Judith Kitchen is the award-winning author of several works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has won the Lillian Fairchild Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the S. Mariella Gable Fiction Prize. She has served as judge for the AWP Nonfiction Award, the Pushcart Prize in poetry, the Oregon Book Award, and the Bush Foundation fellowships, among others. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Kitchen lives in Port Townsend, Washington, and serves on the faculty and as codirector of the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by “the haphazard collection of boxes and albums” saved by her mother, Kitchen explores and sometimes invents a family’s history in this word montage of the photographs, letters, and journals she found there. It’s a history that moves from Germany to the American Midwest and reaches back into the 19th century and forward into the author’s bout with breast cancer. As Kitchen meditates upon the assorted photographs, the unseen (that little noticed figure in the background; those curious elements in the foreground) catches her eye and thoughts as vitally as the more solid objects: her known and unknown relatives as well as some unknowable strangers, for whom “no names, no places, no clues” exist. “Written over a ten-year period,” this prose poem, masking itself as essays, rewards a leisurely reading, with not only, as Kitchen promises, “patterns of American immigration and opportunities,” but an experience that may open the eyes to the treasure chest of the American experience found among those stepchildren of the arts—the snapshots. Kitchen’s book lets you know what a keen eye coupled with an alert and sensitive intelligence can see. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"[Half in Shade] rewards a leisurely reading, with not only, as Kitchen promises, "patterns of American immigration and opportunities," but an experience that may open the eyes to the treasure chest of American experience found among those stepchildren of the arts—the snapshots. Kitchen's book lets you know what a keen eye coupled with an alert and sensitive intelligence can see." —Publishers Weekly

“Kitchen’s collaboration with the past serves as a reminder that we of the twenty-first century are neither the first nor the last to know heartbreak.  Rather, we are simply one more snapshot in the collage of humanity—half-blurry proof that none of us are ever truly forgotten.”—LA Review

"Behind the beautiful language Kitchen employs and the poignant moments she unearths, it's the theme of life's instability that resonates most. . . . Using her imagination—and ours—Kitchen creates a testament to the veracity of art: sometimes the fiction is more real than the facts. More importantly, sometimes all the spectator needs to connect the dots is that uncanny sense of familiarity."The Brooklyn Rail

"Half in Shade [is] well worth the read. Together with the photographs, it offers an entertaining, quirky, and sometimes profound trip down memory lane—even if the lane is  not your own." TriQuarterly Review

“Over a ten-year period, Kitchen worked on Half in Shade, trying to come to terms with an inherited collection of family memorabilia that enlightened as much as it confused. . . . Most compelling is her attempt to find out the things she does not know but suspects about her mother, including an unexpected romance.” BookSlut

Half in Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate, takes an intensive look at the intent behind 20th-century photography in general, with specific reflections on what any photo can tell us. . . . [I]t can leave even the least nostalgic of readers wishing they had paid more attention.”—The Quivering Pen

“Kitchen's invitation to look with her at the images she has gathered—a journey of seeking and finding or failing to find—is irresistible, and the company of her assuredly meditative voice makes a reader want to respond in kind. . . . Half in Shade glows with a kind of inspirational energy that will make this book eminently teachable.”—Water Stone Review

"Half in Shade is one of those rare, hypnotically enjoyable books that can be stretched out over many long, lazy afternoons or read in one sitting. Kitchen writes of photographs that 'there is a mystery in a still moment. The very black-and-white of it. It serves as entry into another time, another place.' The same could be said of her words." —ForeWard

"Half in Shade is the work—diligent and curious—of an innocent of sorts, a daughter, mother, and grandmother mapping family stories and myths using grainy images as her guide."—No Such Thing As Was

"Kitchen's ruminations linger long after Half in Shade is finished, leaving readers to question how much we really know about the people who become our parents." Shelf Awareness

"Judith Kitchen has written a book that is at once clear and accessible and at the same time insistently complex. Her effortlessly constructed hybrids make Half in Shade part memoir, part speculation, part essay, a demonstration of the interactive art of seeing, and finally for me, a beautifully sustained meditation. It is at that meditative level that the book's potent, unsentimental emotive power gathers." —Stuart Dybek

Kirkus Reviews
Essayist/novelist Kitchen (The House on Eccles Road, 2002, etc.) muses on memory, history and illness while rummaging through family photos. The author writes that photos capture a physical moment, while memory re-creates the entire atmosphere: how we felt, what sounds we heard, all those things that hover out of the camera's range. As she looks at the disk containing scanned copies of boxes of family snapshots, she is as interested in what they don't show as what they do. Did 23-year-old Aunt Margaret, "Paris, 1938," know that war was imminent? Why on earth would her mother be sitting at a desk with a lampshade over her head, and can she be sure it is her mother? Slowly, from these fragmented snatches of essays (ranging from a single paragraph to 30 pages), a picture of Kitchen's family emerges: German-American immigrants on her father's side, impoverished farmers on her mother's. Her father, a physicist, was so repulsed by the anti-German hysteria he saw as a boy during World War I that he was a conscientious objector during WWII; her mother may have had a serious romance while visiting Europe in the summer of 1930. The section centered on photos from that trip is the book's longest and least appealing; the author's attitude seems punitive, as she criticizes the banality of her mother's travel diary and faults the young woman for being insufficiently unconventional. It's also aggravating, though clearly intended by Kitchen, that facts must be teased out from an extremely elliptical narrative: Where was the house that suffered floods in three different decades? Her father seems to have died young, but when exactly? Still, there are enough intriguing insights to maintain interest, and three meditative passages on the author's battle with breast cancer will incline most readers to cut her some slack. Elegantly written and intermittently perceptive, though slightly self-indulgent in form and tone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566892964
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 1,343,767
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Judith Kitchen is the author of several works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has won the Lillian Fairchild Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the S. Mariella Gable Award. She has served as judge for the AWP Nonfiction Award, the Pushcart Prize in poetry, the Oregon Book Award, and the Bush Foundation fellowships, among others. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Kitchen lives in Port Townsend, Washington, and serves on the faculty and as codirector of the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.
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