Black Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI's Secret from Postwar Japan
Terese Svoboda. Graywolf Press, $14 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-490-9
In spare, controlled prose, novelist and poet Svoboda (Tin God) turns to nonfiction to deliver a powerful memoir-turned-political expose. Svoboda sets out to document the military experiences of her uncle Don, but the Abu Ghraib prison scandal unleashes her uncle's repressed memories, sending him into a deep depression. Before his eventual suicide, Don confesses long-unspoken secrets on cassettes for the author. The tapes reveal more about his service in post-WWII Japan, as well as detailed accounts of human rights abuses. As the book progresses, Svoboda grows increasingly aware of the consequences of Don's words. His stories are interspersed through-and haunt-every chapter ""I listen to his tapes several more times. His voice sounds much lower than I remember, it's so gravelly I could walk on it."" The raw quality of Svoboda's relationship to her uncle is as captivating as Svoboda's investigations of the postwar period are alarming. Because she tries to include so much, the author occasionally runs into structural problems-though some of her digressions actually help the reader: by including interviews with Japanese citizens, tales of frustration with the National Archives, and conversations with her father, Svoboda illuminates her text.
Reviewed on: 01/21/2008