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Darkroom: A Family Exposure

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  85 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Darkroom: A Family Exposure is Jill Christman's gripping, funny, and wise account of her first thirty years. Although her story runs the gamut of dramatic life events, including childhood sexual abuse, accidental death, and psychological trauma, Christman's poignant memoir is much more than a litany of horrors; instead, it is an open-eyed, wide-hearted, and good-humored lo ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published October 14th 2002 by University of Georgia Press (first published October 2002)
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Average rating 4.44  · 
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 ·  85 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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Casey Kiser
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Intricate and intimate, a work of art revolving around memories and photographs. Such a fascinating subject - memories. An original and refreshing read. Loved it.
Richard Gilbert
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I reread this memoir after seven or eight years because my students and I loved three of her essays we studied. Having written my own memoir and read a boatload of memoirs in the meantime, I had developed my taste. I got a lot more out of it the second time because I saw what Jill Christman is doing with memory, trauma, and her distanced, wiser self.

In her telling, the many traumas in her life—including a brother's nearly fatal scalding, her sexual molestation, a fatal car accident, another dea
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2015-to-read
Christmas is a gifted workshop leader at a conference I attend annually so I wanted to read more than just a short piece written by her. Her memoir is creatively constructed and, as I see it, a family portrait, rather than singularly about her childhood molestation. There are parts of the picture that deal with that and parts of the picture that deal with loss. Happiness also appears in the picture through the relationship Christmas has with her mother and her lover, Colin, who pulls her from da ...more
Melissa Grunow
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book says so much about the intersection of family protection and darkness that is present in all of us. The victim and survivor are not interchangeable, and yet the seeking of truth becomes the dark messenger that everyone must negotiate and process themselves. Truth is a vital aspirstion that must be achieved if this family is to have any chance for unity.
Jessica Thompson
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jill Christman is preoccupied with the family picture books, but she knows the books are works of fiction carefully curated by her grandmother – healthy, happy children, doting parents, explorations of flower-filled fields in the back yards of beloved grandparents. In Darkroom: A Family Exposure, Christman tells the family’s true story as much as she knows it, the story no one would gather from the edited collections of photos. The reader is fooled at the onset, having been led to believe the bo ...more
Three and a half. This author is brilliant, fascinating, candid. She is not flashy but she is just really really good at her art. The first 1/3 of the book and the last chapter of the book were so good they ached. Five stars and then some. The middle did move slow for me and I just couldn't engage quite as well, I didn't feel the magic of that first third. I almost didn't finish. But I am glad I did. The ending didn't make the middle more magical, but the ending was so lovely that I would have b ...more
Zara Lei Norman
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read Christman through an essay she penned for ‘Not That Bad’, Roxane Gay’s anthology around sexual violence. Then and now, Christman has such a distinctive and playful way of writing about trauma that cuts to the root of what it means to puzzle through the ‘black spaces’ in our memory.
I still don’t know how to summarise my feelings about this book— so I’ll cleave to the section that resonated with me the most.

“I have not yet arrived.” These are Christman’s words near the end of her me
David Patrick
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I had difficulty reading this. A lot of the subject matter is very troubling (graphic child abuse, self abuse, etc). And the style is kind of jigsaw, which works for some readers, but, perhaps this was my poor reading skill at work, I felt like questions were raised that were left to dangle unanswered. Not everything, but some central strands. Perhaps the book, covering 30 some years, is too broad. Maybe this book is three memoirs in one. I can't fault the author. She's utterly skilled. I'm just ...more
Molly Ferguson
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book really sticks with you. Christman describes devastating life events as though she's looking carefully at a photograph of someone else, and somehow they become unique and beautiful stories. I'd compare her writing to Cheryl Strayed's. The darkroom motif is carried through without being cliched, and Christman adds research and her own stylistic stamp to the memoir. I'm looking forward to reading _Borrowed Babies_ next. ...more
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. A memoir written as vignettes, so cleverly pieced together that Christman definitely managed to accomplish what I perceive was her desire for writing the book as if it were an old family photo album. Beginning with her older brother being badly burned before she was born and how that one event affected her life so dramatically to losing her fiancé in a car accident. All is told with incredible rawness and poignancy. I was in awe.
Mar 31, 2012 rated it liked it
It was hard for me to thoroughly enjoy this book. During the time in which I read Christman's novel, I was depressed myself. The two were not a happy medium. I found no redemption or salvation in the text, and at my own fragile time I couldn't appreciate the beauty to Christman's writing. I'll most likely re-read this now. ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Excellent. I can't think of what else to say about it. Christman makes connections that might have been left unconnected had she not mustered up the courage to write this book. Reading it was like watching someone heal before my eyes. ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Amazing memoir about a family and photos, sidetracked a little by unclue and by the ending (too much wrapping up) but writing and depth superb
Jan 14, 2010 rated it liked it
well-crafted, heavy.
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