A Family of Strangers by Deborah Tall

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“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.

About Deborah Tall

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Tall is the editor of the Seneca Review and has taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1982. Tall is the author of three previous books of poems (most recently Summons from Sarabande), and two books of nonfiction: The Island of the White Cow and From Where We Stand. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
Published November 1, 2006 by Sarabande Books. 260 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction

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In short chapters bearing repeated titles (""Anatomy of Secrecy,"" ""The Dream of Family""), Tall movingly traces her genealogical quest, which leads her to the discovery of her family's pre -Ellis Island name (Talesnick), the revelation of a forgotten uncle abandoned to a mental institution and,...

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Project MUSE

These are not necessarily dark, terrible secrets, and possibly the information has been inadvertently withheld—at one point Tall recognizes in her daughter's outrage over the discovery of an unknown relative in her father's family that she and her husband have also been unintentionally unforthcom...

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To feel connected to those seemingly hazy elements of my .

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