From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling 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 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?
Faludi chases that mystery into the recesses of her childhood, and her father's many 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 self 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 a thing you can't escape?
©2016 Susan Faludi (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Narrator Laurel Lefkow shines most brightly when recounting the most difficult moments of Susan Faludi's life.... This immersive story about a father and daughter illuminates so much more." (AudioFile)
one of the best
the wry tone, intelligent writing
good voice for both Susan and Stephani --- brought Stephani to life
Susan Faludi's compassion for her father and steady sense of her own self throughout...
a masterful psychological analysis in historical contexts ...
Intellectually rich, emotionally moving, and wonderfully performed. Equal parts biography and historical narrative, Faludi's exploration of identity is riveting.
I loved the combination of familial reflection and Hungarian history. My Hungarian Jewish family fled the country and I felt real kinship with the author. The intersection of religious and gender identity and marginalization was really thought-provoking and educational as well. And cannot praise the narrator highly enough! I was sad to finish this one!
A digital media consultant and business strategist. I'm a lifelong lover of books in all forms.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. I thought the narrator did a wonderful job of bringing both the author and her father to life through her nuanced narration.
As an LGBT activist, I have more than a superficial understanding of the multifaceted aspects of gender identity. And yet . . . Susan Faludi takes the question of identity to a whole new level and shows the many layers and overlapping aspects of how we see ourselves. Gender is only one of those pieces to our sense of self. And she explores how gender can also be conflated with other aspects of identity like Jewishness.
It was also a fascinating history of Hungary. While that was most unexpected, I enjoyed learning the history of this country through the story of her father's life and his family's history there. It is the most personal of journeys through a country's long and fraught existence and it comes to life through the impact it had on individuals. People with names, faces and histories themselves.
I was also grateful for the deeper understanding of the Jewish experience in Hungary and the very specific details of how the Holocaust impacted Hungarian Jews. Susan Faludi does a masterful job not only in her deep research, but in her storytelling.
I can't get this book off my mind. I wish more people would read it so we could talk about it! That is the hallmark of a really great book - one you want to talk about with other people.
The accolades this memoir/history/identity study has garnered are incredibly well-deserved. Susan Faludi, journalist, has beautifully documented her fraught relationship with her father, and his fraught relationship with identity. The book opens with Faludi heading to Budapest to visit her father who, via email, reveals to her that he has undergone a sex reassignment surgery and has transformed from Steven into Stefanie. What follows is part personal memoir of life with her father and part journalistic investigation. On the one hand, Faludi's writes a lovely if conflicted remembrance of her father, his creativity and knack for editing and airbrushing (he was a well known photographer), his violent outbursts, his controlling nature, and his internal struggles. On the other, her father's transformation leaders her to an investigation into gender identity and into Hungary during WWII (her father came of age as a Jew in that nightmarish time). The book is wonderful and sad, confusing and fascinating. Highly recommended.
This is a memoir that advances by dialogue and I think that there is way too much of it. As a reader, I came by the author's point of view indirectly, as she receded as a character in the narrative with very little exposition of herself and her view of her relationship with her father. Her father has a rather abrasive personality and refuses to discuss his motivations and much of what he says is superficial, repetitive and annoying. The narrator compounds this irritation by giving the father a comically exaggerated Hungarian accent with verbal tics such as constantly repeating Well at the start of speaking as a drawn out "Veeeeeel"
which put me in mind of Dracula speaking. It seems like he says this at least 100 times. The author, more than once, begs her father to please stop talking, stop yelling. Yes, please stop. Being that the father lived in America for many years and spoke other languages, there was no justification for this very heavy accent.
Maybe the structure of this memoir was a way of drawing the reader into Ms Faludi's experience of getting to know her father, and also a commentary on the fact that he didn't really know himself. The problem is I didn't think he was interesting enough to give this level of attention to, after all, we all have our own annoying relatives. I was much more interested in the author's ideas about her family in the context of the war and its aftermath. I only wish there was more of Susan Faludi in the book.
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