Feast Your Eyes By Myla Goldberg

    Feast

    This book only came to my attention when the 2019 finalists for the National Book Critics Circle were announced. (Winners will be announced in March.) Alongside it are quite a few books that have gotten a ton of press, all of which I'd read and liked. This one had flown under my radar, so I'm really thrilled that it was chosen or I might have missed a book that I think is probably one of the best I've read in a long while.

    It's an interesting book: set up to read like an art show catalog, apparently based on a real catalog done in a similar way (see Sam's review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... for details.) I was unaware of that catalog, so what it reminded me of all the way through was the photography of Sally Mann, who (while already a very accomplished photographer) became known worldwide with the collection Immediate Family (first shown in 1990.) Mann photographed her young children at their summer home in secluded rural Virginia, where they swam naked in the river and did normal kid things. Her B&W photos were hauntingly beautiful in a way only art can be. She became an overnight success as well as a target of pretty extreme abuse as a mother. Mann was accused of child pornography all through the 1990s in both the US and abroad, of staging her photographs, etc. See: https://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/27/ma... and artsy.net has a whole slew of pages full of this collection. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-e... Mann was clearly protected by the first amendment and spared courtrooms, so wisely Goldberg sets her controversial female photographer in an earlier time with a completely different family structure. Given the proximity of Goldberg's childhood in the suburbs of DC and her age, it's unsurprising that she credits Sally Mann's photography along with others, as inspiration. It's also worth remembering that in the 1990s, taking pictures of your own children sans clothing could cause every newspaper to refuse to print your photos or place black bars over your children's faces and bodies, turning them from art into a crime scene. I couldn't help but wonder if Mann would be allowed to show this collection in 2020 when nearly everything is seen as victimizing in some way.

    The aforementioned black bars are our introduction to this book. It's done in an ingenious way. The story is ostensibly about Lillian Preston, an amateur photographer, an unwed mother, but it is just as much about her daughter, the subject of some (but the most famous) of her photos. Is Lillian a bad mother? Does she actually love her child? Is she a provocateur or simply a woman making the best of her place in the 1950s with the heart and talent of an artist? Honestly, I already feel like I've spoiled the book, so I'll stop saying anything more about what happens.

    The book is completely effective in asking questions and never giving answers. Lillian speaks for herself sometimes, but often we're left with other people's perceptions as a filter. The themes of motherhood, childhood, parenting, being wanted, reproductive rights, and womanhood itself are constantly prodded and interrogated. However, the book never feels like a feminist manifesto because the story is so good, and the characters are so alive. It's hard not to believe in Lillian's talent, without ever seeing her work. Do artists deserve some special room to create? What if the artist is also a single mother? Should she go for comfort and security to protect her child, making life easier (for whom?) There is so much in this book to think about, but the proof of an effective story was clear to me because I didn't think much about any of these things until today, while writing this. When I was reading, I only cared about what was going to happen to the characters, and I'll admit to wiping a few tears away while turning pages.

    I don't know that I can recommend this one to everyone, but I can say this is worthy of all five stars for me, even in my current more stingy star-bestowing phase. 336 This is the a story of a photographer and her daughter. But the form is unique. It's 13 years after the photographer's death and there's a retrospective show of her work. The novel is the catalog for that show's 118 photographs. The catalog is written by her daughter and includes excerpts from the photographer's journal (written to her daughter), and interviews with other significant figures from the photographer's life.

    What develops (see what I did there?) is a powerful portrait (oops, did it again) of a photographer who breaks new ground by challenging the norms of the art form, but who unwittingly creates a scandal and suffers again and again as her art comes between her daughter and herself.

    By the end, it's quite poignant and heartbreaking. It's been a decade since Goldberg's last novel, and I believe it has been worth the wait to receive this one. 336 Absolutely loved this. A story of photography, of New York, of art, of mothers and daughters, of love and time. Goldberg's structure is a joy, and I thrilled to imagine each of the 118 photographs -- but to also see the exploration of Lillian Preston as a person, as told through her own writings and the thoughts of others. It doesn't feel entirely like a traditional gallery guide, but maybe gallery guides ought to feel more like this than they currently do, you know? 336 FEAST YOUR EYES, Myla Goldberg

    As I read this book the possibility that I was applying a double standard confronted me. Would I have had different reactions if Lillian Preston had been a man? At first, the question might seem incongruous. Key events include an agonizing illegal abortion, the painful estrangement from Lillian's conventional Methodist parents over her position as an unwed mother, and a troubled mother-daughter relationship that is never resolved.

    I discovered, however, that I did have certain expectations for a female character: a sense of social connection, reciprocal bonds of friendship, a groping toward self-awareness. Unfair though that may be, I was struck by the absence of these traits. Lillian corresponds with an aspiring photojournalist, Sam Decker, who was a year ahead of her in high school and is now in Korea on the front lines (the year is 1953). Of course she worries for his safety, but there is no mention in her journal entries about the war beyond that concern. Grete is the mother of a daughter about the same age as Lillian's daughter, Samantha. Grete provides unflagging support and sympathy during some of the most troubling events of Lillian's life. However, the relationship felt one-sided to me. When Grete's husband Paul, an Afro-American, embarks on a spiritual journey to re-forge a cultural identity, he leaves Grete. Their daughter Kaja chooses to leave with him. This separation is devastating enough. However, Paul and Kaja then move from New York City to Detroit, and then finally, to Africa. Lillian is unable to provide any emotional support. On the contrary, she remarks on the new level of artistry Grete has achieved in her weaving that has been catalyzed by these traumas. Lillian's daughter sums up this remote quality in her mother succinctly: “Lillian always had reasons for what she did, it's just that her reasons made sense only if the rest of the world wasn't part of the equation.” (p.25)

    The format of this book mimics the narrowly focused frozen moments Lillian captures in her photography. In a belated tribute to Lillian's genius, a retrospective exhibition of her photographs is being organized. The narrative is in the guise of a museum catalog. Her own journal entries, interviews and letters from those who knew her best (notably excluding her parents), and Samantha's intertwined commentary about her photographs and their relationship at each point in time are the voices that tell the story.

    That format is both innovative and limiting. The recollections of her closest and life-long friend, Deborah Brodsky had a gauzy flatness countered only in the closing chapters. Lillian's own journal entries had a self-absorbed quality that at the same time cast little light on her artistic growth. Her joy is in capturing unguarded moments, invisible in real time, that provoke ambivalent reactions through composition and lighting. However, it is Samantha's commentary that exemplifies the ambiguity of these photos while presenting compelling revelations to the reader. Here are a couple of examples.

    #76. Lost child, Brooklyn, 1964 '...here's the boy, not older than five, alone and crying. Anyone else happening upon a kid like this in a park would stop to ask what was wrong. Once Lillian got that desperate, tear-streaked face on film, she may have tried to help; but first she got the picture.' [emphasis on may is mine]. (p.188)

    “#83. Rope Swing, Brooklyn, 1964 'The kid is caught midswing, dangling kid-height over a barren, hard stretch of sidewalk that ten out of ten doctors would not recommend for breaking a fall. In the world I want to live in, he lands well. In the world I actually inhabit, I give him better than even odds, as long as he drops when he's over the crumbling top step beside the padlocked plywood door. I'm betting that Lillian — picture accomplished — didn't stick around to find out.'” (p.209)

    There's an absence of context in this format that is reflected in Lillian's life. This absence made this a less than compelling story for me. Instead, I found the most interesting character to be Samantha. Her six-year old self is the subject of a series of controversial and for the time, shocking photographs. The series is catapulted from avante-garde pieces at an obscure Brooklyn gallery in 1959 to a sensational obscenity case that reaches the Supreme Court. The notoriety provokes cruel bullying as the case winds its way through the media. It leaves Samantha with a truncated existence, like being forever encased in amber. An older Samantha forbids Lillian to take any more photographs of her, and calls herself Jane, forging for herself a new persona. She lives as Jane through adolescence and early adulthood. And yet, what adolescent does not fear most of all the fate of being ordinary? Samantha's life teeters between the shadow of Lillian's fame and her own unformed identity. These unresolved tensions are what made Samantha an interesting character.

    Goldberg poses interesting questions about the conflict between art and ethics. (It was a time when a photographer did not need consent to take and publicize a photograph). She also poses the conflict between happiness and satisfaction. Samantha muses, what if Lillian had never walked into that obscure Lacuna Gallery: “I could very well be married with kids and a cocker spaniel...in a cushioned suburb....I'd be much happier, probably, but also a lot less interesting.” (p.133) Her contemplation is not just about Lillian's self-imposed poverty but about the choices she made in her own life.

    This was the selection of our local book club, and possibly I would have appreciated it more if I had been familiar with the photographers that inspired the author.

    NOTES:
    A review that reflected some of the frustration I felt in reading this book: http://www.startribune.com/review-fea... 336 via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
    'Just as I was beginning to worry that waiting was all there would ever be, I picked up a camera- but you know this already.'

    Myla Goldberg states in her acknowledgements that she was inspired by the life and work of people like Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, and Harold Feinstein (just to name a few) and it certainly shows in the creation of her fictional character, Lillian Preston. This novel is beautiful, we are able to feast our own eyes on subjects Lillian photographs as much as the life of a photographer. Rather than stating someone is a photographer, the reader is witness to the inspiration and expression of Lillian’s passions, of breaking out of her ‘cage’ when she was young, and the consequences self-expression through art costs her child and parents, anyone that is both inside or outside her orbit. Feast Your Eyes is a love story of pictures but more so of mother and daughter and it isn’t always pretty. The ending gutted me, as a mother and as a daughter because I could feel the pain of both, all the regrets.

    Lillian is born with hungry eyes, her purpose is to strip people naked through her series of work, sometimes shocking and vulgar making her the ‘Worse Mother in the World’ and other times going without notice. A field trip when she is young, a ‘rocket in her chest’ when she sees photographs hanging in museums, a pivotal moment shaping her future, Lillian knows she will one day have her own upon such walls. Her reasons are never about attention seeking nor fame, but always telling a story, as with her most infamous photos which her daughter is haunted by. Samantha is mostly nude in the damaging series, but worse is Lillian’s abortion photo. Having grown up in the fifties, being on ‘photo safaris’ in the streets of New York Samantha grows up free to roam the city, a child that is fiercely loved by Lillian (there is no doubt about that) but whose mother’s focus is always first and foremost her camera. Her work is her life, as vital as oxygen.

    “Mommy is sick”, at least a judge rules it to be true but those ‘vulgar photos verging on the pornographic (according to some)’ don’t make up the majority of Lillian’s work, so much overlooked because it isn’t ‘shocking’. The novel finds Samantha cataloging her mother’s work for a show, as Lillian is no longer alive. We journey through the memories, the friends, the strangers and the bond between Samantha and Lillian that sours and forces Samantha’s disappearance from her mother’s life. “Mommy is sick” ends up being a precursor of sorts, but I won’t go into that. Her notoriety ruins her chances for a successful career, but still… her work continues. It is the story of artist, subjects and what it means to come of age beside a creative genius, whether the rest of the world acknowledges their gift with praise or in horror labels said artist as a degenerate. It is fiercely engaging, and Lillian is ahead of her time, as many artists are. Her eyes feast upon the world and tell stories, ‘jolt’ viewers by exposing both the obvious and unseen. In strangers, we recognize ourselves, our pride, anger, poverty, love, sickness, strength… every situation and emotion one can scrape up on the streets. Her camera is there, a witness like God, to the very last blink of Lillian’s life- that is one of the most beautiful endings I’ve read. It’s not about the posing for her, it’s not about showing the world or people as they wish to be seen but instead, as they really are.

    Of course Samantha changes as she grows up, no longer an extension of her mother like the camera. As Lillian once removed herself from her own parents and their ordinary life in Cleveland, knowing she was meant ‘live differently from others’, her own girl craves stability, affection when she learns she has grandparents. That her girl could come from her body and be so vastly different is all too familiar a truth mothers must accept. Samantha and Lillian are the biggest love story in the novel, going between immense affection to resentment (Samantha), testing the waters of teenage angst, Samantha must remove herself to understand who she is without Lillian, acts out as most children do, as a form of punishment, assuming her mother is immortal and will always be there to make up with. Those photos return and drive a deep wedge.

    There is a lot of story in the cataloging, and the photographs are beautifully described to the point of painting it in the reader’s mind. It’s a bohemian life, but not for show as it was for some people during certain decades, trying so hard to be ‘other than’. Lillian really is an original, and being different is always a sore spot for children. Samantha struggles with embracing and rejecting her mother as artist, but it can be no other way, for it is her mother’s very makeup. There is a line that expresses the period of time Samantha shucks off her mother, “in the spirit of self-destruction and self-discovery”, for it can be no other way.

    Somehow this novel manages to be many things and Goldberg keeps it all flowing. My heart broke at the end, it’s too close to recent losses in my life. I really caught my breath at the writing, Lillian’s final moments are so much in keeping with her character. I don’t know if my review is doing this novel the justice it deserves, all I can say is I loved it. Most people fancy themselves photographers these days and it goes without saying there is an over abundance of artifice with selfies, it’s evident so many of the pictures we see are manufactured and that makes this story all the more appealing, because there is an authenticity to Lillian that does honor to the work of people like Diane Arbus. Artists who are using their medium to relate to the world, to explain it or question it in the only way they can. It can seem shallow at times, certainly a compulsion but one must recognize it is used to express love as well, as with any pictures of Samantha. One must consider the self, and how desperately Samantha wants to be her own person, it’s so hard to do when your mother has always defined you it’s just sad what it costs her, time that can’t be given back.

    Yes read it!

    Publication Date: April 16, 2019

    Scribner

    336

    The first novel in nearly a decade from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season—a compelling and wholly original story about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood , a balancing act familiar to women of every generation .

    Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: “America’s Worst Mother, America’s Bravest Mother, America’s Worst Photographer, or America’s Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking.” After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school’s photo club, Lillian rejects her parents’ expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter’s sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives and especially Lillian’s career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

    Narrated by Samantha, Feast Your Eyes reads as a collection of Samantha’s memories, interviews with Lillian’s friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian’s journals and letters—a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity. Feast Your Eyes

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    “Time after time my mother traded privacy, square footage, countertops, and a decent bathroom for darkroom space.”


    While the way in which Feast Your Eyes is framed makes for an undoubtedly interesting technique (telling the story of a fictional photographer Lillian Preston through the catalogue notes for an exhibition of her work at the Museum of Modern Art) Myla Goldberg's execution left me wanting more (out of her story, her characters, and her style).

    The novel’s catalogue structure, however innovating, is limiting: although we have Lillian's diary entries and letters, for the most part it is her daughter Samantha who tries to describe Lillian's photos. Her suppositions and observations were monotonous and left me wanting more.
    I can’t help but compare this novel to two of favourites of mine, and Self-Portrait with Boy and
    generation Loss, both of which also happen to be centred around female photographers. Whereas those two novels gave a clear impression of what the protagonists’ photos looked like and their significance to them, in Feast Your Eyes we get a few lines from Samantha summarising her mother’s photos. Only the photo entitled 'Mommy is sick' gets a more detailed description.

    Lillian herself remains a puzzle. Although we get to read her letters and diaries, as well as the testimonies of her roommates/sort of friends, her character never really came together. In fact, I would go as far as to say that what we do get is a rather disjointed portrait. T
    o begin with Lillian's was made to seem as this rebel, a pioneer, a feminist, the type of person who wanted to speak out against the oppressive social norms and injustices occurring in her society. As the story progresses however I realised that she was a half-formed & mostly self-absorbed individual who was too interested in her own notions of what is ‘art’ than of helping out her friends (for example I hated the patronising way she would correct one her friends, telling her that she wasn’t a weaver but an artist).
    Maybe if Lillian spoke more about her own photos or creative process I could have felt something more towards her...but her passion for photography comes across only when other characters comment on the time Lillian spent developing her photos. We are told that photography was everything for Lillian but it is her daughter Samantha who tries to imbue her photographs with some sort of meaning...and because of that I wasn't able to buy into this image of Lillian as this passionate photographer.
    The various characters speak of Lillian as if she was some sort of philanthropist or activist...but she acts anything but. Heck, she doesn’t even help her closest friend when she’s in need. Speaking of Lillian's friends...these women sounded far too similar to one another. I understand that they would utilise the same language given that they are around the same age but they also happen to have exactly the same tone. Their names were as forgettable as their personalities and it seemed that they were mere accessories to Lillian's story.
    The mother-daughter relationship that is at the centre of Feast Your Eyes is fairly nuanced. However, given that I wasn’t invested in Lillian or Samantha's lives, I can’t say that I felt very moved by it. And some of their arguments/misunderstanding struck me as unnecessarily clichéd.

    Lastly...I questioned whether catalogue notes from an exhibition would really be as long-winded as the ones for Lillian's show. These accounts have less to do with Lillian photos than New York in the 1950s-1960s. This focus on this particular time and place did result in a very detailed and vivid setting, so I can't say that I didn't find their descriptions about the various neighbourhoods etc. fascinating.

    Most of Lillian's diary entries and letters, as well as Samantha's notes, have this cheesy obsession with the ‘body’ (“My arms and legs are like so much lunch meat wrapped around drinking straws and covered in waxed paper”), a penchant for unpleasant metaphors and imagery (“ the final word flew out like a broken tooth”), and for transcendental or purely abstract statements and declarations (“I’m reduced to a mote of pure awareness”) which seemed mere navel-gazing.

    Although Lillian's story deals with many different themes and subjects (abortion, ambition, motherhood, being a female artist and a single mother in in the 1950s, the degrading and inhumane conditions in the “Women’s House of Detention”) it does so at a swift pace. Because of this it seemed that many things were left unexplored.

    Overall, while the idea behind Feast Your Eyes is undoubtedly creative, I’m unsure of the way in which Myla Goldberg handled this structure.
    Perhaps a bit of more variety (such as including interviews, articles, actual photos etc.) would have given Lillian biography's (her childhood, career, and relationships) more depth and nuance.

    Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads 336 ”Just as I was beginning to worry that waiting was all there would ever be, I picked up a camera – but you know this already. You’re the only one who understands when I say that making pictures makes me fully and truly myself.”

    Lillian’s love of photography began through her high school photo club, and her love led to a desire to pursue her passion, hoping that one day she would be working as a photographer for a magazine or newspaper. Shortly after her graduation, she forgoes her parents’ plans for her to attend college and moves to New York City in the mid-1950s.

    Her story is shared, in part, as a catalog of a photography exhibit, so you are able to see much of her life through her eyes and her vision of capture-worthy moments, her journal entries as well as letters, interviews of friends and lovers, and through her daughter’s eyes and memories. There is in one way, Lillian’s personal story, her journey to become the photographer that would not only shoot beautiful photographs, but one that could share a truth that would move people, never imagining her work would alienate them.

    Inspired by photographers such as Sally Mann, Diane Arbus and the stories of their struggles as females, as well as female photographers in an era when that was an anomaly, the main story of this is one that Sally Mann is perhaps more associated with. An innocent photograph of a young girl, in Lillian’s case her daughter Samantha, wearing underwear only, is photographed. Sally Mann photographed her children at play, sometimes without clothing, and the description of the censored photograph in Lillian’s story closely matches the newspaper article that followed one of Mann’s photographs on a 1990 cover of Aperture, a photography magazine. The Wall Street Journal, using the same photograph of Mann’s daughter Virginia, placed black bars across her eyes, her chest and her groin, when publishing a decidedly damning article which was written, oddly, by a food critic. Mann’s daughter, Virginia, wrote a letter, in return, saying simply: ”DEAR SIR, I DON’T LIKE THE WAY YOU CROSSED ME OUT.
    “I WILL BE 6 ON FRIDAY”


    Keeping in mind that there is less nudity in the photograph taken by Lillian than in the Coppertone billboards that used to populate the entire USA from the 1950s on - featuring a little blonde girl with pigtails, wearing the bottom half of a swimsuit, and a puppy pulling that down – the reaction to the photograph in question might seem questionable, but there is also a story behind the photograph that triggers the headline ”Judge Rules . . . MOMMY IS Sick” in a pre-Roe v Wade era.

    The politics of public opinion, and the unequal opportunities afforded women are focused on in a more obvious way, but underlying this is a story of love and passion, a love and passion for doing what we love and loving what we do, what brings us joy, shapes our lives. How those we love can build us up, or bend us and sometimes even break us, and how to rebuild that which has been bent and broken. The bond between mothers and daughters that is sometimes frayed beyond measure, but is always a part of who we become.

    Lovely, if sometimes heartbreaking, I loved this story, fell completely under its spell, and highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in the last pages.


    Pub Date: 16 Apr 2019

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Scribner 336 Myla Goldberg, you are writing genius. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Feast Your Eyes is the story of photographer and mother, Lillian Preston.

    Lillian connects to photography in high school when she participates in photo club. Her parents have expectations that she’ll attend college and get married as women do in the 1950s. Instead, Lillian moves to New York City to pursue her photography dreams.

    A small gallery displays semi-nude photos of Lillian and her young daughter, Samantha, which ends in Lillian being arrested and known throughout all the media channels. The attention they receive changes the courses of both of their lives, and Lillian is forever on a quest to legitimize her artistry and talent.

    Samantha is the narrator of the novel, and she writes of her memories. Lillian’s friends and lovers are interviewed. There are journal entries and letters as well, which all add to the interest and intrigue with this story. All of this comes together into a glorious picture of a woman who seeks to do it all and is criticized for it all. A real woman, a relatable woman, and formidable one.

    Overall, this an exceptionally told story of the court of public opinion, how it changes lives for good and bad, but beyond that, this is a story of real woman seeking love in her personal life but also in her field of which she adores. This is a gorgeous book, and I’m so grateful to have been affected by it.

    Thank you to my friend, Cheri, for the beautiful review that inspired me to read this book.

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com 336 SO DARN ***GOOD***, I CANT STAND IT!!!

    My God..... when it ended, I kept saying no, no no no no no!!!! I actually cried.

    When I first started this book I was a little confused and I wasn’t feeling emotional connection.
    Then..... it started to get interesting.....
    Then a little more interesting.....
    THEN ****MORE**** interesting....

    It’s been awhile since NOT WANTING A BOOK TO END ....
    I went from thinking this book was ok .., to passionately loving it. I miss connecting with the story of these characters. I miss them all!!

    THE LAST PART OF THIS BOOK IS BRILLIANT!!!

    Definitely one of my favorite books this year!!!!!

    5 STRONG STARS
    336 I truly appreciated how Myra Goldberg wove a story out of this idea of an exhibition catalog of a female photographer and her daughter. Touching, painful, but beautiful like the black and white photos that Lillian dedicated her life to despite the heavy cost: the price for Lilly’s immense talent was an immense loneliness that I would never have to know. (p. 30)

    Due to a particular series of raw photos of Lillian and her daughter that were exposed at the Lacan Gallery and titled for the daughter (and author of the catalog), Samantha, the powers-that-be find the work offensive and perverse and the situation for both mother and daughter deteriorates rapidly. Sam learns about assumptions: It struck me that those who assume the worst of people are predisposed to assume it, just as those who suppose the best are predisposed in that direction. Any given assumption has more to do with its assumer than with the people they’re assuming about. (p. 59)

    The writing has moments of brilliant clarity:
    Sometimes the people you’d expect to be important drift past like clouds, while the seemingly random types end up changing everything. (p. 71)
    I tried sitting with my camera by the window, but a dead-end street in winter is a closed fist. (p. 102)
    it is a face willing the light that I am guiding up my arm and into my head to shoot out through my eyeballs and into the camera lens, exploding it into a mess of twisted metal and shattered glass that will never take a picture again. (p. 198)
    Yes, I told her, and that is why there are no shawls or rugs here. If some person did build a museum for shawls and rugs, this would create the problem of bare floors and cold shoulders. (p. 231)
    Son or daughter, your flesh can attain a shape so different from anything you could have imagined that the notion it was once inside you feels like a fairy tale. (p. 257)
    it’s true that life divides us into smaller and smaller pieces as we go, until each piece seems too small to do anything as worthwhile with it as we’d like. (p. 278)

    Sam has a best friend, Kaja, the daughter of one of Lillian's best friends and a black militant, Paul. She learns about how society looks at race: True acceptance does not stare, because true acceptance sees nothing to stare at. To both kinds of people, Kaja and I were a symbol. (p. 143)

    Sam changes her name to Jane following the photo scandal and learns quite a lot about life as she reminesces about her life after her mother's death: lot of energy trying to make people in my image and then getting mad when they didn’t look the part, but if being a mother and a teacher has taught me anything, it’s that you have to work with what’s already there. I told Lilly there was a difference between a promise and an aspiration. The whole point of an aspiration is to make yourself reach. The only people who achieve everything they aspire to are lazy or cowards. If one of us had been either of those, we never would have stayed friends. (p. 318)

    In fact, Lillian contracts cancer at 40 and nearly is cured: What began as a small piece of hope grew larger, until I did not see its edges anymore. (p. 320), unfortunately, the cancer comes back and takes her away before Sam/Jane can reach her again. Before dying, Lillian left all her photos organized and given to Sam/Jane: I told her what I missed about her as I put each sheet in the stop bath, and what I remembered about her as I rinsed it and hung it to dry. Inspecting each exposure, I described what was beautiful in each of those last pictures she had taken, and what was difficult to see. (p. 324) and this is the basis of the exposition for which the book is the catalog.

    I enjoyed this book very much and would gladly read more from this author. Great stuff. Better than Nickel Boys IMO.

    My List of 2020 Pulitzer hopefuls:
    https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...
    My blog about the 2020 Pulitzer: https://wp.me/phAoN-19m 336

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