Poetry. Art. Perfomance Studies. Literary Nonficition. Can care be enacted through art? Inside a cathedral, staff members from a nursing home work with an artist to perform a poetic text about caregiving, loss, and taking the time to feel one's feelings. In the months leading up to the performance, the artist navigates her twenties--and art and life converge in unexpected ways. Weaving between oral history and poetic prose, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff has created a stirring work of hybrid nonfiction that takes us behind the scenes of artmaking and caregiving. Melding curiosity, humility, playfulness, and self-deprecation, STAGES is an inquiry into the work it takes to sustain a meaningful life.
STAGES is one of a very few recent books I have read that feels truly revolutionary, in both form and in content. It consists of documentary materials assembled, in a style somewhere between Svetlana Alexievich and André Breton, by a young writer, while staging a theater production in a nursing home. In a series of eye-opening interviews, she talks to housekeepers and nurses from Jamaica and Ghana about ghosts and family structure; to a clinical nutritionist, who explains how she helps people stop eating food, after a lifetime of eating food. Basically we're on a tour of a parallel institutionalized world of aging and dying which has been zealously cordoned off from the rest of American life, and which is not without its Kafkaesque elements, but our guide, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, is so humane, curious and visionary that the overall effect is energizing and uplifting. Reading STAGES gave me the revelatory feeling of looking at something I'd been dreading, and seeing that it was actually OK, and vital, and a major part of life. STAGES brings humanity, humor, and a strong visual sensibility to a taboo subject, with exhilarating results. It expanded the way I think about family, theater, and a 'good life.'--Elif Batuman
Caring work, emotional labor, and end-of-life care are useful abstractions; this wonderful book that weaves together interviews with nursing home workers and the author's own reflections on life, death, and making art, fills them with life. Given that we all die, and that most of us will care for others and require care ourselves in that process, everyone should read this book, sit with it, and absorb its lessons.--Kathi Weeks
STAGES is the kind of story-telling that we need more of. Care is so fundamental to who we are and the values we all share, and yet is too often hidden away rather than celebrated. Whether we are caregivers for our own family members, or whether we are professional caregivers, this role stitches together the very fabric of our society, connects generations and cultures. This story is told beautifully in STAGES.--Ai-Jen Poo, Executive Director of The National Domestic Workers Alliance and Director of Caring Across Generations