Synopses & Reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of Backlash, 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?
"Extraordinary: part riveting family memoir, part revelatory Holocaust history, but most of all a profound meditation on human identity....In the Darkroom is nothing if not timely. It is also highly significant....We live in an age overflowing with bitter battles over identity–with too little of Susan Faludi’s humane desire to understand." National Book Review
"Impressive....Sometimes reality delivers up not just a remarkable story, but a remarkable story containing a set of parallel motifs that seem too absurdly perfect to be credible...the epic battle, and eventually the epic rapprochement, between Susan and [her father] Stefánie–an irresistible force meeting an immovable object....As impossible as her father is, Susan comes to recognize and feel compassion for the bewildering and titanic forces, inside and out, that batter Stefánie’s psyche." Slate
"In this riveting book about a very complicated subject, Ms. Faludi...does a remarkable job tracking down the truth about her father, a person of multiple and contradictory identities...Ms. Faludi unfolds her father’s story like the plot of a detective novel." The Wall Street Journal
"Many great writers eventually turn to biography, but rarely does it so directly crash into their lifelong intellectual pursuits....very few can dissect a prevailing cultural norm as well as Faludi can." The Washington Post
"A searching investigation of identity barely disguised as a sometimes funny and sometimes very painful family saga....Faludi is a mercilessly droll and careful writer. The emotional incontinence and narcissism that pass for insight and power in memoirs these days is not for her....All the same, I cried quite often as I read her book, and at [one] point, I had to go off and stare at some flowers for a while....An out-and-out masterpiece of its kind." The Guardian (UK)
"Penetrating and lucid...In the Darkroom is Faludi’s rich, arresting, and ultimately generous investigation of her father." The New York Times Book Review (Front Page)
"In the Darkroom is an absolute stunner of a memoir—probing, steel-nerved, moving in ways you’d never expect. Ms. Faludi is determined both to demystify the father of her youth—'a simultaneously inscrutable and volatile presence, a black box and a detonator'—and to re-examine the very notion and nature of identity." The New York Times (Daily Review)
About the Author
Susan Faludi is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of The Terror Dream, Stiffed, and Backlash, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. A former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, and The Baffler, among other publications.