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A Family of Strangers [Hardcover]

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Item description for A Family of Strangers by Deborah Tall...

"Without self-absorption, Tall traces the self's emergence in a place which she recognized from the start as her testing place."-Seamus Heaney

"In the literature of place, Deborah Tall's book stands out for its delicacy, range of learning, and refreshing frankness."-Phillip Lopate

In her third book of nonfiction, Deborah Tall explores the genealogy of the missing. Haunted by her orphaned father's abandonment by his extended family, his secretive, walled-off trauma and absent history, she sets off in pursuit of the family he claims not to have. From the dutiful happiness of Levittown in the 1950s to a stricken former shtetl in Ukraine, we follow Tall's journey through evasions and lies. Reflecting on family secrecy, postwar American culture, and the urge for roots, Tall's search uncovers not just a missing family but an understanding of the part family and history play in identity. A Family of Strangers is Tall's life's work, told in such exacting, elegant language that the suppressed past vividly asserts its place in the present.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   260
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.4" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.35 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2006
Publisher   Sarabande Books
ISBN  1932511458  
ISBN13  9781932511451  

Availability  0 units.

More About Deborah Tall

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Deborah Tall and David Weiss teach at Hobart and William Smith colleges and live in Ithaca, New York.

Deborah Tall currently resides in Ithaca, in the state of New York. Deborah Tall was born in 1951.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Classics
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Essays > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Classics

Reviews - What do customers think about A Family of Strangers?

Well done memoir of discovering Ukrainian Jewish family history  Apr 29, 2007
The author was born on the east coast of the USA. Her parents talked little about their family histories and her father was particularly reticent about his past. The book is the story of the author's quest to find out the history of her father's family. She discovers a half-uncle and a half-aunt, learns of a full uncle who spent his life institutionalized, visits the village in Ukraine where her grandfather was born, and more.

There are of course a lot of memoirs, especially by Americans, of the quest for family history and genealogy. I'll mention two things that make this book better than average. One is the the writing style: the book is not poetry, but it is not quite prose either, and against all odds, the author makes this work -- quite an achievement. Second, the book does a really good job of showing how those who investigate their family history encounter living relatives who are totally different from them. Those who pursue genealogy are typically bright, inquisitive, and educated folks, but their near relatives may be people with entirely different values who would rather separate themselves from the past rather than linking themselves to it.

The book will also appeal to those interested in the history of immigration from eastern Europe to the USA. Though Tall's family was Jewish, the book dwells very little on specifically Jewish identity or experience.
Deborah Tall, professor of English and Comparative Literature, died on October 19 at age 55 after two years of resisting inflammatory breast cancer, a rare, aggressive form of the disease. She had lived in Ithaca, N.Y., since 1990 with her husband of 27 years, David Weiss, and their daughters, Zoe and Clea Weiss.

Since 1982, Tall taught at Hobart and William Smith where she was named The John Milton Potter Professor of Humanities and won the 2001 Faculty Scholarship Award, as well as numerous faculty research grants. She was editor of the literary journal Seneca Review.

"Deborah was deeply admired throughout our community and far beyond," said President Mark D. Gearan. "She inspired us with her original talent as a writer and her dedication to literature, teaching, her family and her friends. Those close to her will be able to share their memories in a public celebration of her life to be held on campus this fall."

Both a poet and nonfiction writer, she was published widely and gave readings and talks around the world. Her books include Summons, which was selected by Charles Simic for the Katherine A. Morton Poetry Prize in 1999; The Island of the White Cow; From Where We Stand: Recovering a Sense of Place; and The Poet's Notebook, which she co-edited with Hobart alumnus Stephen Kuusisto and Hobart and William Smith Professor of English David Weiss. A memoir, A Family of Strangers, has just come out this fall from Sarabande Books.

Born in Washington, D.C., she grew up in the Philadelphia area and spent five formative years on Inishbofin, off the west coast of Ireland. She earned a B.S. in English from the University of Michigan and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Goddard College.

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