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Family Resemblances

Carrie Shipers, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Family Resemblances is a collection of poems that investigate the concept of "family" from multiple angles. Many of the poems are centered on a family whose members reappear throughout the book: a man whose adolescence and early twenties are marked by minor outlawry and anger gradually transforms into a tender father; his wife, used to dealing with her household's minor disasters, discovers that working as an emergency responder gives her power; and the couple's daughter tries to understand which parent she most resembles and which parts of her nature are wholly her own. The unfolding of these overlapping narratives demonstrates the connections—and failures to connect—between these recurring characters.^ Absence, whether attributable to estrangement, disappearance, or death, is a frequent trope throughout the collection. In one poem, a woman whose adult sister has been reported missing is torn between feelings of guilt and annoyance. In another piece, a woman caught faking breast cancer describes the loneliness she feels now that no one is concerned about her recovery. Other poems consider the difficulty caused by a lack of absence; a series of poems inspired by Jill Price, whose memory is so powerful she cannot forget even minor details about her life, explores the impossibility of forming a coherent identity in the face of so much contradictory and unflattering information. ^ The relationship between self-identity and family of origin is important throughout the book, even though many of the families have been formed by choice or more literally "made" from other materials. A craftswoman's daughter complains about the lack of privacy in a house filled with handmade doll heads; a man is convinced that the girlfriend he physically abuses is actually a robot; and a woman describes why a lifelike doll is the only child she deserves. If, as the poets Rita Dove, B. H. Fairchild, and Natasha Trethewey, have suggested, our families are what we come from, as well as what we try to escape, Family Resemblances is an attempt to map the space between residency and exile.^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Shipers, Carrie, "Family Resemblances" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3398115.