A Family Exposure
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos
Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 07/01/2011
List Price: $24.95
A Family Exposure
Darkroom: A Family Exposure is Jill Christman's gripping, funny, and wise account of her first thirty years. Although her story runs the gamut of dramatic life events, including childhood sexual abuse, accidental death, and psychological trauma, Christman's poignant memoir is much more than a litany of horrors; instead, it is an open-eyed, wide-hearted, and good-humored look at a life worth surviving.
Through a shifting narrative of text and photographs, Christman explores the intersection of image and memory and considers the ways photographs force us to rework our original memories. Darkroom is a page-turning and disturbing journey that begins with an older brother's near fatal burning and progresses through a counterculture childhood in which her free-spirited mother moves the family to an isolated mountaintop. The story advances into an adolescence of eating disorders and barely remembered sex, slams into a young adulthood of love, literature, drugs, death, and therapists, and ends soon after a beloved uncle bleeds to death in a federal prison while serving a ten-year sentence for growing marijuana.
Never sentimental, Jill Christman is brutally honest and surprisingly funny. She deftly blends narrative, quoted materials, her uncle's letters, and her father's photography to create a family saga that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating.
Darkroom is a work of art, exquisitely written, spare, never self-indulgent. She pushes the memoir far beyond the usual litany of pain, Prozac and psychiatry to something transcendent and, at times, frighteningly beautiful. . . . Darkroom is raw and honest, a fine debut for a brave writer.
—Diane Roberts, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
How extraordinary: Christman can see so damned clearly in the darkest of rooms. But that's where everything develops, after all, for all of us—in the dark. In the dark, Christman starts feeling her way, stumbling and fumbling and getting knocked down and getting back up, feeling her way towards her own deliberate, tough and oh so sweetly gentle life. Everything is here: pain and love and failure; abuse and terror; shutting up and making up; and even one or two moments of elusive victory—so much shows up here that the whole thing could easily fall into cliché. But that's what really superb writing does: it rescues the ordinary and the everyday, it turns the minute miraculous. Christman has great talent. The book's a joy. Read it, and see how many bits of life come clear.
Christman employs a kind of collage technique to tell her story. She writes well; her style is sensual and juicy. . . . Darkroom could have been a maudlin read, but it's saved by Christman's insight and skill and leavened by occasional passages of humor.
—Washington Post Book World
This is an account of remembrance, about memories that cannot be trusted unless they're verified by snapshots from a family scrapbook or verbally by another person. Christman's narrative has a dreamlike quality: it doubles back on itself, jumps from past to present, and flaunts the narrator's unreliability.
It's a beautiful story, beautifully told. . . . Against all odds there is humor here, too, and in the end, the affirmation of a worthy life, won by a survivor.
—Muncie Star Press
Christman begins her journey into the past by studying family photographs, then searches deeper, exploring memory, where profound truths are discovered. Some of Christman’s memories surface like photos developed in acid; other memories are more gentle. What Christman wants us to know is that all memories, good and bad, remembered or reclaimed, are crucial to self-knowledge. In exquisite and compelling detail, Darkroom exposes Christman’s family photographs in all their complexity and color.
—Sue William Silverman, author of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You
A survivor's tale full of brutal honesty and intelligence. Like Truman Capote and Alexandra Fuller, Christman offers the reader unforgettable visual images, luminous and terrifying at the same time.
—Julie Schumacher, author of The Body Is Water
Although at times offering shockingly personal revelations, Christman achieves an amazingly balanced perpective in this memoir about her family. In part, this balance is achieved by the clever way in which memory, letters, diary entries, quotations, and photographs are spliced together and juxtaposed to create a richly layered text. . . . The reader is privileged to be taken on a journey from Christman's childhood to the present, meeting tragedy (both sexual abuse and accidental death) and happiness at every turn of the page.
Lynda J. Morgan