In the Darkroom
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of Backlash, comes In the Darkroom, an astonishing confrontation with the enigma of her father and the larger riddle of identity consuming our age.
“In the summer of 2004 I set out to investigate someone I scarcely knew, my father. The project began with a grievance, the grievance of a daughter whose parent had absconded from her life. I was in pursuit of a scofflaw, an artful dodger who had skipped out on so many things—obligation, affection, culpability, contrition. I was preparing an indictment, amassing discovery for a trial. But somewhere along the line, the prosecutor became a witness.”
So begins Susan Faludi’s extraordinary inquiry into the meaning of identity in the modern world and in her own haunted family saga. When the feminist writer learned that her 76-year-old father—long estranged and living in Hungary—had undergone sex reassignment surgery, that investigation would turn personal and urgent. How was this new parent who identified as “a complete woman now” connected to the silent, explosive, and ultimately violent father she had known, the photographer who’d built his career on the alteration of images?
Faludi chases that mystery into the recesses of her suburban childhood and her father’s many previous incarnations: American dad, Alpine mountaineer, swashbuckling adventurer in the Amazon outback, Jewish fugitive in Holocaust Budapest. When the author travels to Hungary to reunite with her father, she drops into a labyrinth of dark histories and dangerous politics in a country hell-bent on repressing its past and constructing a fanciful—and virulent—nationhood. The search for identity that has transfixed our century was proving as treacherous for nations as for individuals.
Faludi’s struggle to come to grips with her father’s metamorphosis takes her across borders—historical, political, religious, sexual--to bring her face to face with the question of the age: Is identity something you “choose,” or is it the very thing you can’t escape?
Pulitzer-winning journalist and feminist author Faludi's wrought and multi-layered memoir focuses on the life of her father, who came out as transgender and took the name Stef nie at the age of 76. In 2004, after nearly 25 years of estrangement, Faludi ((Backlash) and Stef nie reunite in Hungary following Stef nie's transition to explore her past and reconnect. Faludi dives into Stef nie's enigmatic past with a journalist's dogged lust for truth. During a decade of visits to Hungary, where her father relocated after a contentious divorce, Faludi examines Stef nie's complex psyche in the context of centuries of Hungarian history, with an emphasis on the war years when Stef nie was an adolescent Jewish urchin on the streets of Budapest. Through research, conversation, and relentless probing, Faludi paints a vivid picture of the war and the tormented lives and deaths of Hungarian Jews. (In one dramatic scene, Stef nie, disguised with a pilfered Arrow Cross armband and cap, rescues her own parents from the Nazis). The author also sheds light on the dangerous climate of prejudice and racism that persists in Hungary. This is a powerful and absorbing memoir of a parent/child relationship.