Review by Booklist Review
Everyone in business and technology writer Hempel's family came out: the author as a lesbian, her father as gay, her younger sister as bisexual, her younger brother as trans, and her mother, who suffered major depression, found the voice to call herself a survivor. This memoir is their story. It began as a series of in-depth interviews that revealed closely held family secrets, which Hempel believed would eventually coalesce into one interlinked story. Instead, it became five very individual narratives of family members who have in common a roller coaster of emotions and questions about who they are. The author's own questioning "chipped at the foundation of my own identity," Hempel writes, although as early as third grade, writing became her refuge and she decided she would become a writer. As this skillfully wrought book evidences, that decision has served her well. Bringing each family member alive on the page and bringing her own story up to date, the author wisely concludes that the work of transformation is never done. And so, her story continues.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
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 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.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Technology and social-media journalist Hempel's debut memoir came about during the pandemic when she reached out to interview five members of her unconventional family and record their coming-out stories. Hempel, who hosts the Hello Monday podcast, writes, "We all came out of the closet and now we're okay," but that was a process that took decades for deep family secrets to surface, with her siblings and their parents all finding themselves in the process. Both the author and her father came out as gay, her sister as bisexual, her brother as transgender, and her mother as a survivor of trauma and depression stemming from her close proximity to the "Ypsilanti Ripper," a serial killer who terrorized her neighborhood in the late 1960s. The author's narration is warm and congenial, guiding listeners on her compelling journey. VERDICT Beautifully written, this thoughtful and unique literary memoir may appeal to audiences interested in LGBTQIA+ studies. Share with readers who appreciated the works of authors Putsata Reang, Dani Shapiro, and Carmen Rita Wong.--Phillip Oliver
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A business and technology journalist's account of how revealing--and making peace with--painful secrets made her family whole. As Hempel, a senior editor at large at LinkedIn, reports, her parents kept secrets that, though unspoken, "worked their way into the fabric of my being." Those secrets--of her shy mother's proximity to an alleged murderer of women and her deeply religious father's closeted homosexuality--first manifested as terrifying childhood nightmares of bodily endangerment that continued into young adulthood. A therapist helped her banish the dreams by talking through her feelings, and Hempel embarked on a successful media career. However, by the time she reached 30, she could only feel a "big hole where I felt a family should be." She had been living as a lesbian since college and had long been out to her parents. Yet it was that same openness about her sexuality that she believed triggered the implosion of her family, starting with her parents' marriage. Her father pulled away from her mother to explore online gay relationships, while her mother fell into depression and had the first of several breakdowns. Her trans brother began experimenting with meticulous dance routines and limits on food intake to exercise control over a life that seemed to be falling apart. The author and her sister, Katje, became involved in a cultlike organization called World Works and then became estranged when Hempel left the organization. Slowly, they found their way back to a decent relationship, at which time Katje revealed she was bisexual. But it would take a worldwide pandemic and forced isolation from each other before all family members could finally reconnect and learn to fully accept each other. As she explores how her family healed from the secrets it kept, Hempel also offers provocative glimpses into the complexities of what it truly means to forgive and love. A thoughtful, compelling, unique memoir. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.