AUTHOR OF NEW MEMOIR ABOUT THE LIFE AND EARLY DEATH OF HER IDENTICAL TWIN, TO SPEAK
NYS Writers Institute, March 7, 2013
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Standish Room, Science Library, Uptown Campus 8:00 p.m. Reading | Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany
Christa Parravani, photographer, Schenectady native, and author of the acclaimed new memoir, Her (2013), about the life and early death of her identical twin, Cara, will discuss her work Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Huxley Theatre, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue in downtown Albany. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Friends of the New York State Library.
"I was definitely failing a lot and I did the thing that many amateur writers do, attempt to write the hardest part of the book first . . .(3:02)
Christa Parravani, acclaimed photographer and Schenectady native, is the author of the new memoir, Her (2013), about the life and early death of her identical twin, Cara, and her own struggle to carry on after the tragedy. Raised in poverty by a single mother, Christa and Cara enjoyed a bond that went beyond siblinghood. Together they created a private world that served as a refuge from personal and familial hardship. Both earned their way to prestigious colleges and successful careers as artists, but Cara’s wounds led ultimately to depression, drugs, and an eventual overdose. Parravani takes note of the fact that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, fifty percent of the time, the surviving twin dies within two years: “Flip a coin,” Christa writes of life after Cara, “those were my chances of survival.”
Publishers Weekly called the book, “a finely wrought achievement of grace, emotional honesty, and self-possession.” Novelist Jayne Anne Phillips said, “Christa Parravani’s lyrical, no-nonsense Her ranks with the best American memoirs of the decade… an uncompromising love poem to the joys and dangers of shared identity, and an unforgettable treatise on addiction, trauma, survival, and triumph.” Author Nick Flynn called it, “reckless yet delicate, familiar yet otherworldly, precise yet with the soul of a fairytale, and deeply moving in surprising ways.” Novelist Julie Orringer said, “With a photographer’s sharp eye and a gifted writer’s penetrating insight, Parravani writes about being torn apart and then about piecing her life back together, brilliantly illuminating along the way what it means to be a sister, a daughter, a wife, an artist, and— ultimately, and triumphantly— herself.”
Represented by the Michael Foley Gallery in New York City and the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, Parravani’s photography has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe. Her widely-exhibited 2006 photography series, “Kindred,” shot prior to Cara’s death, featured both twins posing and interacting in a variety of dreamlike settings. The Center for Photography at Woodstock said of “Kindred,” “The landscapes become the medium for the telling of [the twins’] fractured relationship…. Here, identity is malleable and the past and the present merge to create an all encompassing reality. The photographs explore underlying themes of childhood, narcissism, sexual confusion, and family romance that identify a singular path, individuality, and separate lives…. Parravani is the author of the images and the subject at the same. She is both the viewer, the viewed, and inserts a large amount of control over the image while also losing control by making herself vulnerable.”
Parravani has taught photography at Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Anthony Swofford (author of Jarhead and Hotels, Hospitals and Jails: A Memoir), and their daughter.