cover image The Family Outing: A Memoir

The Family Outing: A Memoir

Jessi Hempel. HarperOne, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-307901-4

The author of this eloquent, intricately woven debut is the first in her family to come out as queer, but she’s not the last. As journalist Hempel explains, a series of family interviews during the pandemic revealed her life was founded on a web of “hidden truths.” Her father, raised Christian, lived a double life for decades, until Hempel’s sister discovered their dad had been furtively courting other men online. Their mother, Patti, harbored a weighty secret of her own: As a teenager, she was close with a man who, unbeknownst to her, was an accomplice to the notorious Ypsilanti Slayer. Alienated from her distant husband, Patti fell into bouts of severe depression that, for years, kept Hempel and her younger sisters—both of whom would later have their own coming out (one as bisexual, the other as a trans man)—“afraid that honesty [about ourselves would] break her.” Hempel’s work has an urgent, intimate feel as she documents her family’s unraveling and eventual rebuilding: “Coming out is the act of letting go of our planned lives in pursuit of the lives that wait for all of us.” Of course, it’s hardly that easy: Old wounds fester, and new troubles arrive, but what rises from the rubble is a deeply moving portrait of generational trauma and painstaking repair. This interrogation of familial fissures and bonds radiates with empathy and grace. (Oct.)