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Intimate: An American Family Photo Album

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Intimate: An American Family Photo Album Memoir by Paisley Rekdal

Synopsis | Reviews
Intimate: An American Family Photo Album
Paisley Rekdal
Photo by Tommy Chandler

$19.95 Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-932195-96-5
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$36.95 Clothbound
ISBN: 978-1-936797-08-0
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A Tupelo Press Lineage Series publication

Intimate is a hybrid memoir and “photo album” that blends personal essay, historical documentary, and poetry to examine the tense relationship between self, society, and familial legacy in contemporary America. Typographically innovative, Intimate creates parallel streams, narrating the stories of Rekdal’s Norwegian-American father and his mixed-race marriage, the photographer Edward S. Curtis, and Curtis’s murdered Apsaroke guide, Alexander Upshaw. The result is panoramic, a completely original literary encounter with intimacy, identity, family relations, and race.

Praise for Paisley Rekdal’s previous books:

Rekdal … cleverly dissects what it means to be biracial in America and overseas in this artful collection…. The narrative structure is inventive and draws from her sharply honed skills as a poet…. Rekdal has a lot to say.
Dazzling. Just as a kaleidoscope refracts and changes the object viewed, Rekdal’s subjects and protagonists are often unable to tell themselves from the stories they’ve been told.
Publishers Weekly


We find ourselves getting involved with Rekdal’s family, who may at first blush to have little or nothing to do with these characters from over a century ago as they traveled through the plains states and much of the upper northwest … at times in grave danger, with equipment which weighed heavily on them: the fragile plates, the chemicals, the solvents. To do what they had to do, they would stop, get everything assembled, pose the pictures, take them, then dismantle everything and move on.
— Pamela Wylie, RALPH Magazine
The beauty of the book’s form is that it so perfectly marries the content—fragments of writing about fragments of history. One of the most poignant accounts that Rekdal records (and I use that term loosely, as many details are fictionalized in the work) is the story of Curtis’s attempts to record the various Indian languages. His attempts are merely that, because there is never enough time or space to record all of the languages in one man’s lifetime. No record will ever be complete, only snapshots will be left. And in Rekdal’s story, we are reminded that all of us survive only in fragments.
—Courtney McDermott, New Pages
I read Paisley Rekdal’s Intimate in one sitting last night, simply couldn’t put it down. The work has all of the qualities of creative nonfiction that I absolutely love; Rekdal’s Intimate is genre-bending, confessional, speculative, self-conscious and analytical, and historically textured… A beautiful work!
— Stephen Hong Sohn, Asian American Literature Fans
Poet and essayist Rekdal (Animal Eye) sets out to explore the slipperiness of identity—and examine the very nature of self and perception—in this ambitious … 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—and, 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 … the book is as complicated … as identity itself.
Publishers Weekly