Touching the Hem of Heaven by Jay Desind

Touching the Hem of Heaven

A Memoir of Redemption in Nepal
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Text and photographs document the author’s 2010 trip to Nepal, undertaken in hopes of escape and discovery.

For Desind (Lost in Language, 2015, etc.), 2010 was difficult. Donald, his partner of 17 years, died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition. The relationship had been crumbling after years of diminished intimacy, and Desind was looking for a new attachment, but Donald’s death was a shock. Desind’s parents both faced serious health problems, too. Nepal represented at first an escape into the exotic as well as a chance for Desind to experiment with his new camera equipment and get over his shyness in asking people’s permission to take their photos. Some of Desind’s concerns in Nepal, like whether the new man in his life texted him back, loom very small in the post-earthquake context of this book; that said, his extraordinary photographs command attention. Each photograph is one to spend time with. They benefit from Desind’s decision to “tell a story of color and stolen moments surrounded by chaos” in a place where a town might look like “a wedding cake placed none too gently on a pile of trash.” This choice allows Desind to show off his talented eye for composition, color, and the telling juxtaposition. In one photo, a boy with thick, unruly curls and huge dark eyes stares calmly to the side; his T-shirt reads, “NATURE.” In another, a tiny store selling Pepsi is visible in the background behind the corner of a worn building traversed by colorful prayer flags. In the foreground runs the blurry shadow of a baboon. One breathtaking photo depicts an elaborately carved wooden doorway in a stone building. A sadhu’s dark-skinned legs furred with white hair rest on the stone sill, his body invisible in the interior darkness; all is brown, black, and gray but for a glimpse of worn textile with pops of ochre and plum. The effect is both dignified and homely. Moral issues are inherent to photography, and Desind deals with the issues thoughtfully, for example, showing children hard at work but also their bright-eyed exuberance.

Compelling photos whose color, composition, and subjects invite lingering attention.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-692-47898-1
Page count: 230pp
Publisher: Pride Enterprises
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2015


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