In this gripping but deeply disturbing memoir, Tracey Brame describes how she allowed herself – a high-achieving black, lesbian West Point graduate – to be exposed to “unspeakable danger” by the Ku Klux Klan between 1995 and 2008.
A superb storyteller, Brame skillfully uses flashbacks, foreshadowing and dialogue to engage readers from page 1. We learn of her childhood and her physical and academic excellence at the military academy, but after she inexplicably takes up with and marries Jayns, another cadet, a dark madness permeates her story.
Her family approves of the handsome, African-American, and Brame ignores his instability and emotional abuse. After they are engaged, that abuse intensifies, and while they’re vacationing off base, he brutally rapes her. Although she repeatedly tries to leave, he always manages to woo her back.
Brame is so traumatized she cannot remember what happened. Back at West Point she denies any rape – despite severe internal injuries caused by a sharp object. Suffering from persistent fatigue, she’s eventually diagnosed with dissociative amnesia and PTSD. She states repeatedly that this mental illness prevents her from remembering the rape and leaves her “numb and incapable of feeling [normal] fear” in the face of future trauma.
Unfortunately, years of trauma follow. After leaving Jayns and the military in 1995, Brame settles in Indiana, where her high-profile position aggressively pitching Pfizer products to doctors catches the attention of local KKK members. Brame alleges that many doctors belong to the KKK and that they want to run her out of town because she’s black and lesbian. They also fear Brame, after years of their threats, will write a book representing them as white supremacists. Nonetheless, she fails to register their menacing actions, including attempts to blackmail and kill her.
One wants to take the impressive veteran’s claims at face value, but as the shocking stories mount, they seem increasingly implausible. For example, the physicians allegedly had her drugged at a bar and taken home, where she woke naked in bed with her own loaded gun in her hand, safety off and pointed at her face. The grand dragon’s son tried to kill Brame with syringes he claimed were “a free two-part flu shot.” Further, she describes threatening conversations in detail even as she writes repeatedly that at the time, her PTSD prevented her from recognizing danger. Third-party confirmation of events would make them more credible.
Whether the stories are true, embellished, or fictionalized, Brame’s book is hard to put down. Readers will—and should—come to their own conclusions. Wherever the truth lies, there’s no denying that Brame provides a mesmerizing read.