Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Missives from the Other Side of Silence

by Kim Dana Kupperman

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-55597-560-9
Publisher: Graywolf

Gettysburg Review managing editor Kupperman offers discrete, attentive autobiographical essays concerning her relationship with her mother and others in her life.

Undoing the harm of years of enforced silence—“the genesis of omission”—is the author’s aim in these essays about family, travel and love, published separately in literary journals, and as a collection the winner of the 2009 Bread Loaf Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction. The first part deals with the author’s mother, “Dolores, a prophecy of sorrows,” who died by suicide in 1989. Kupperman admits her mother had always been “foreign” to her—a glamorous presence who had once worked at Revlon and became the wife of a several-times married fundraiser for Jewish philanthropies (Kupperman’s father) in the 1950s. The couple underwent a rancorous custody battle when the author was eight, although it wasn’t until Kupperman’s father was dying in 2004 that he allowed her access to the extensive court files. “Habeas Corpus” delineates the unsavory contents of those files, such as the mother’s neglect of the daughter and entrapment by detectives in an adultery sting, ultimately necessitating both parties’ need to win the girl’s allegiance. In “Teeth in the Wind,” the author layers reflections of her family over different time periods: The “ghosts” riding a coastal wind storm in Maine circa 1995 bring to mind her attempts to locate the story of her paternal grandmother, supposedly from Kiev, who actually hailed from the Pale of Settlement region in western Ukraine before venturing to America after the pogroms of 1905. The Chernobyl nuclear cataclysm kept Kupperman from traveling to Russia, further complicating “the business of remembering.” In “The Perfect Meal,” the author examines her doomed love affair with a married man, and “That Roar on the Other Side of Violence” provides eloquent anecdotes about the battered women who populated a domestic-abuse shelter where the author worked.

Moving selections, somewhat disconnected but gracefully composed.