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“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
I turn the pages to meet the young woman I’ve seen before--the one whose hair is hidden under a dark cloche, standing at the rail of a ship, arms linked with another woman whose hair flies away in the wind. My mother’s dress is dark, with tiny white buttons running down its length, a white collar and--yes--white cuffs. White stockings, too, like the ones worn by her friend whose scarf is thrown carelessly around her neck and whose shoes, with their low heels and delicate strap, give her the shapely look of someone ready for something. My mother’s shoes are the giveaway. Sturdy, flat-heeled shoes that lace. Practical. Good for walking. Good for practically everything--except letting your hair fly out.
Standing at the brink of something large, my mother looks down, and away from the lens. What will she learn about herself as she embarks on this journey? I read to find out:
There was a movie on board--but we couldn’t see--too many spectators. We danced to a rather blarey electric victrola.
The stewards are the best looking and most interesting people we have met yet. They wear dark blue uniforms with brass buttons and white caps with blue bands and gold lettering. The lounge steward is adorable--he helps to serve tea in the afternoon and he has a charming smile. The dining room steward is nice too--and the captain is dignified, stalwart and commanding looking. We learned how to put on life-savers today.
The photograph was taken early in the trip (the word “leaving” is written lightly in the upper left-hand corner) on board the Letitia, maybe even as it sailed up the St. Lawrence, past Quebec (“lights and lights and blue water and steamers”) and on out into the Atlantic. Maybe before the month (and what a month!)--Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Shakespeare country, London, the Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg, Interlaken, Lucerne, Munich, Oberammergau, Innsbruck, Venice, Florence, Rome, Genoa, Nice, Avignon, Paris--had worked its magic.
So who is the young woman who looks almost ready to open herself to experience? She has grown up an only child on a farm near North Adams, Michigan--her childhood pinched by poverty. She has worked her way through high school, leaving the farm to “live-in” with a family in town where she takes care of their four children after school. She has worked her way through college as a waitress, spending the long summers working at a resort just south of the Mackinaw Strait. She has found her first job teaching school. And now she is ready:
Our tour proper began today. We left the hotel early, and it was raining. We took the train 1st to Loch Lomond--the trains have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class and are divided off into tiny rooms with 2 long seats facing each other. They hold about 10 people, that is, each compartment does. We rode 3rd class and the coaches weren’t bad at all. Then we took a lake steamer and went across Loch Lomond. It was really beautiful--altho’ the rain spoiled full appreciation and we were somewhat disappointed. The mists and fogs hung heavily over the tops of the mountains. Then we alighted and what do you suppose conveyed us next? Open carriages drawn by 4 horses (called tally-hoos). They carried about 20 people, each. It was raining when we started and continued to rain all day.
To whom is she writing this journal? Her question presupposes someone who will share her surprise. As the month goes on, the writing does not deepen into observation, yet it becomes more intensely private, less a record and more a shorthand. A spur. In the end, she seems to be writing for the self she will have become after a dozen years: wife, mother, early-middle-aged woman with memories to resurrect:
We went to see the Pope’s Palace in Avignon and an old bridge. After dinner, Anne, Eliz. & I went to a French show--had fun watching the people--but I went to sleep & finally we left. Leanna & Laura & 2 other girls met a fellow from Yale who was driving his mother thru Europe & they all rode everywhere & never got in until 7 this morning. I went to sleep about 12, I guess, and this morning Joan & I discussed weighty subjt.--& we’ve decided that ‘love rules everything so we want to be ruled by it, too.’
There’s a terrible innocence here, an innocence I don’t remember ever feeling. I’d like to warn this young woman about life. I’d like to warn her before late July when she will ascend the gangplank of the Tuscania and find her stateroom (112F). I’d like to have a talk with her before she returns home. Before she meets a man called Trueheart with his fascinating tales of his roommate Jo Jo, a millionaire’s son who every so often feels the need to rebel.