Half In Shade

COFFEE HOUSE PRESS | 2012

When Judith Kitchen inherited boxes of family photographs and scrapbooks, they sparked curiosity and speculation. Piecing together her memories with the physical evidence in the photos, along with a sense of history and a willingness to speculate, 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.

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Praise for Half in Shade…

“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.”

—Publisher’s Weekly

“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 Dybeck

“Inspired by “the haphazard collection of boxes and albums” saved by her mother, Kitchen explores “Half in Shade is mysterious and brave, written with wit, humor, stabbing insight, and in prose that reverberates long after you turn the last page.”

—Dinah Lenney