cover image Intimate: An American Family Photo Album

Intimate: An American Family Photo Album

Paisley Rekdal. Tupelo (, $19.95 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-932195-96-5

Poet and essayist Rekdal (Animal Eye) sets out to explore the slipperiness of identity%E2%80%94and examine the very nature of self and perception%E2%80%94in this ambitious and somewhat jumbled synthesis of biography, memoir, poetry, and photography, which threads together her own life with that of Native American photographer Edward Curtis and his interpreter, Alexander Upshaw. The narrative hangs loosely on Rekdal's relationship with her Chinese mother, who has cancer, and her Norwegian father, a history teacher who says the Sioux "were hardly victims" and believes that history has "multiple narratives." Interspersed throughout are short chapters (some only a single sentence), poems inspired by photos taken by Curtis, epigraphs, and mini-biographies of Curtis and Upshaw, each in different fonts. All of these sections seemingly act as metaphors for and reflections of Rekdal herself, who is deemed "Other" by the manager at her first job%E2%80%94and, when employed by the University of Wyoming, has a directory photo that makes her look "like a Hawaiian Air stewardess." Rekdal's prose is fluid and rhythmic, and the poems are often poignant. In the end, however, the book is as complicated%E2%80%94and messy%E2%80%94as identity itself. Photos. (Apr. 30)