Fascinated by the natural world, Lee Zacharias turns to creatures whose language we cannot fathom, from spiders to vultures to dogs, and the mute record of the land through time, to explore the powers of speech and memory. Read More
These twelve deeply metaphorical essays are both intensely personal and vitally concerned with the larger world, including the kingdom beyond our ken. Exploring subjects as diverse as her father's suicide, the great migration that changed the racial composition of Chicago's South Side, the nature of light, the geology of the Grand Canyon, or the landscape of writers' desks and offices, Lee Zacharias writes with grace, precision, and candor about the experiences that shape our humanity and our relationships, to our parents, to our children, and to past, present, and future.
"Readers will be drawn into Zacharias's world, which she studies with candor and elegance."—Publishers Weekly
"In Lee Zacharias’s elegant and varied essay collection, we enter a world where memory’s soundtrack plays quietly beneath every landscape, event, and portrait. Though hers is a life “coded” by sound, these essays showcase her training in photography. Even in the darkest rooms of this book—black widow spiders, vultures, a father killed by his own hand, a mother “no daughter could have cherished…enough”th—ere is light to read by. “What breaks my heart,” Zacharias writes of her beloved dog Ollie, who literally eats the author’s past by chowing down on photo albums and other memorabilia, is “the beauty of his attention.” Of this essayist’s many gifts, perhaps her greatest is the beauty of her attention. Reading The Only Sounds We Make, we lucky readers learn, as the essayist has learned, “how to read light.” —Rebecca McClanahan, author of The Tribal Knot and The Riddle Song
"Poised on nothing but the air of memory and love,” Lee Zacharias’s The Only Sounds We Make is a stunning safari of a collection, spanning three generations of family, moving us cross-country, from land to water to land, surveying the damages of culture, the gifts of light and language, the miracles of the individual mind. Zacharias pitches her tent at the crossroads of the natural world and the moral universe, and what she gives us is observation and insight to match the best of Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, and Diane Ackerman. You cannot hold these stories in your hand. They are at once too heavy and too light. But at daybreak, opening the flap of your tent, you might catch the poet’s vision for Zacharias has given hers flight." —Elaine Neil Orr, author of A Different Sun
"To make a photograph, Lee Zacharias tells us, we must learn how to read light. The Only Sounds We Make are essays rich with light. Yellow light from a rusty lamp falling onto a page in a typewriter. Light in a tunnel beneath a 63rd street train on a city’s South Side. Dusk in Paris over iron verandas sweet with the scent of tobacco and lilacs. These luminous essays are not only personal history—a mother raised in a Chicago orphanage, a father’s death in a treeless Florida back yard, finding a self via memory—but are history of time and place, of truth and decision, of ideology and aesthetics. Rich with color and light, these are essays that teach us to possess the world again." —Karen McElmurray, author of The Motel of the Stars