Book Review – In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi
Book: In the Darkroom
Author: Susan Faludi
Year of Release: 2016
Read 463-page paperback edition in July 2017.
In this intriguing and thoughtful memoir, journalist Susan Faludi recounts her childhood with a very difficult, angry, and emotional father. Faludi had long been estranged from her mysterious father, an immigrant from Hungary to America, who had taken on many roles including mountaineer, photographer, adventurer, film-maker, and family man. However, when she receives a message from her long-last father, now back in Hungary, that he is coming out as a woman, and has already undergone surgery, she launches into a long investigation to uncover the truth behind who Stefi really was, and is.
This memoir was a fascinating look not just at a family, but also at many other topics, including Hungarian culture and history, immigration, photography, WWII, and transgender identities. Faludi has succeeded in using journalistic and research skills to not only tell an emotional story, but also to bring a lot of education to readers on the above topics. It was a surprise and a treat to have this memoir spread its storyline and cover a lot of ground that I was not expecting. Faludi does a good job of weaving it all together through the lens of her complicated father.
The memoir also succeeds in terms of telling a very unique tale. Of course all lives are unique, but often it is easy for one to think of a minority group like the transgender community as a group of people that all thinks and acts the same way. Faludi describes her conversations and meetings not only with her father Stefi but also with others from the community, and through these descriptions and interactions, we see a very diverse community indeed, who do not all think or act the same way. This knowledge is helpful and true.
Faludi also does a great job by painting a very real picture of her father. It is not all good or all bad. There are some very noble and good things to say, and some frightening stories of Susan growing up as a child. She puts it all on the table, and we get a very complex and multi-faceted character sketch of her parent.
One challenge with the memoir was that even though there were many topics and characters referenced, at times it didn’t all weave together perfectly. Certain key characters, like Faludi’s brother, were briefly mentioned but never spoken with or described in any length, and no reason for this (even if there was a legitimate one), was provided.
Overall however, this was a fascinating glimpse into a long life of a complex person, and the relationship over time of a daughter and her parent.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars