Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance
By Alexis Clark
Book Review by Susan Graham
Enemies in Love, published by The New Press, is hardly a typical romance novel. It’s the story of Elinor Powell, an Army nurse and Frederick Albert, a German prisoner of war in the 1940s. The first part reads like an academic book and the second half you might think is fiction, but it is very real.
The first surprise is that German POWs were held in camps in remote desert areas of Arizona. The second one is that Black nurses were shunned and made to take care of them. Elinor Powell was one such nurse. This unknown story is a shocking bit of World War II history told in great detail by Alexis Clark.
Elinor Powell and Frederick Albert fell in love and risked being found together in the Jim Crow era. They decided that one way to be together after the war was for Elinor to get pregnant, necessitating Frederick to come back to the states after his release in Germany.
The couple had two biracial sons and this is where the story took a dive for me. The family never spoke about race or identity. Yes, this was the 1950s, but racial issues were talked about, especially in interracial families. The author mistakenly uses biracial, interracial, mixed-race and other terminology in a jumble of stories about the children’s childhood, which is based mostly on the memories of one of the sons. Children’s memories are not always accurate and we have no way of knowing what the truth really is. The family moved a great deal, which can have detrimental effects on children, but their problems seem to mostly be attributed to the fact that they were biracial. Also, there were problems in the marriage, with racial acceptance, with Frederick’s mother and father, and a host of other unfortunate circumstances, yet everything seemed to center on race. They were humans and had other issues, as everyone does.
Enemies in Love is a very worthwhile read and the historical events are fascinating. I recommend it, keeping in mind that times have changed, thank goodness, for interracial families in America.