Cover Image: The Family Outing

The Family Outing

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Member Reviews

The Family Outing, by Jessi Hempel, is an intimate memoir about family secrets and overcoming trauma on the path to self-actualization.

Hempel’s journalistic approach to this project is unique. As the author, her family’s story is unavoidably skewed toward her point of view, but she is careful to include the perspectives of her parents and siblings throughout. All five family members agreed to the project and actively participated in interviews.

The “outing” in the title refers to how each and every family member outed their secrets. Not just secrets they kept from each other, but the secrets they kept from themselves. For Jessi, her father, and her siblings, identifying as queer was only part of their long and winding process of self-actualization.

Even when detailing their worst moments, Hempel treats her family with love and respect. Both her mother and father failed to parent their kids. And while Hempel doesn’t shy away from sharing the damage this caused, she also speaks of her parents with empathy. Looking back, with the knowledge she has today, she knows how emotionally broken her parents were. She recognizes the scars they carried from their own childhoods.

The emotional pull of this memoir is intense. My heart broke for Jessi and her siblings, neglected by their parents and coping in their own unique ways. But there is hope, too. The reader is aware from the start that this story will have a positive ending, despite the setbacks.

It doesn’t feel right to say that I “enjoyed” this very personal and sometimes painful story of the Hempel family. But I was engaged throughout, and I wish Jessi, her parents, and her siblings the peace and joy they have worked so hard to attain. 

Thank you to HarperOne and NetGalley for the gift of this digital ARC.
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The Family Outing is a thought-provoking read about being human, no matter how your identify. Jessi Hempel writes about her family life before and after her father came out as a gay man. Jessi was the teenager who caused the family stress in their home where she lived with her father, a successful lawyer, her mother, a music teacher, and her two siblings. When the teenagers discover their father's secret, the family unwinds and grows. The Family Outing is a honest memoir about emotion and acceptance in the messiness known as family.
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Such a fun and heartwarming read. I really enjoyed the writing style and the overall plot. The characters were very real and authentic. Enjoyed this a lot!
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This memoir is broken into 4 parts and is a story of coming out involving a dad who is gay, sister who is bisexual, brother who is transgender and the author who is a lesbian. This book is told entirely from the perspective of one person in the family’s lived experiences and I really enjoyed it as every perspective is valid. I really loved and appreciated that the author did not deadname her brother Evan. This is a beautiful memoir involving change and growth. I listened to it on audio while following along on my kindle and y’all know I love a memoir narrated by the author. I loved the conclusion and really loved that the author acknowledged that this story is only from her perspective and that it would be different if it were written by anyone else in the family. Everyone’s story and perspective matters. Definitely recommend. 

💫Thank you to @netgalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review 

⚠️TW: disordered eating, sexual abuse, serial killer
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When I started this book, I felt a strange familiarity: a mother whose depression overloads and accuses the narrator of being "bad" when really she is a kind of scapegoat, a father who is not present and a marriage that is falling apart, announcing you are gay and having your father say nothing while your mother muses about wanting grandchildren in an unhelpful way, wanting out so badly it hurts. 

Of course, it could only be familiar for so long, and when it was unfamiliar, it was still strong--at least in the beginning.

The strongest parts of the book for me were the ones in which Hempel went way back into her history and described her parents' youth. Her mother's brush with a serial killer was interesting for obvious reasons, and the retelling of a highly religious upbringing was compelling too--neither of these experiences were anything like my own family's, and Hempel was able to retell them in an almost novelistic way.

I think that's why the later half of the book wasn't as strong for me as the start of the book was. Hempel went decidedly inward when we got into the chapters where she played a larger role, and I think an editor could have helped her pull back a great deal, especially when we get the larger narratives on the cultish / MLMish WorldWorks that seemed to devour and disrupt her relationship with her sister.

I appreciated the scenes rather than the summaries, I think. There were places where Hempel wrote more about something than into it, and I found myself wanting to nudge the story along. The story itself is good and important--her brother transitioned and had a baby long before we began talking about bathrooms at the high school where I teach (or at least, long before anyone was out enough to need that conversation to be had) and now the middle school has gender neutral bathrooms (because of my own kiddo). I loved learning about her step-father, who seemed to embrace all of life, and could imagine the home he built with her father. I loved the passages where we went to a Buddhist retreat for her brother's wedding and the author's wife accidentally texted copies of embarrassing photos to the wrong people. These scenes were done so well, as is most of the book. 

Jessi Hempel handled this project with grace and acceptance. She expressed her own take on things, but she also shared her sibling's wishes. For instance, the brother never wanted to be mispronouned or misnamed throughout the book, even when he presented as otherwise. I had a good talk with my oldest about it, as they show up in my own memoiristic pieces, and they have a different attitude: "I was X then, and I am X now. You'll write about how I transitioned." Point being: Hempel respected Evan's wishes, just as any good memoirist should. Hempel acknowledged that this was her story, but it was also all five of their stories, and there are parts of it she tells where she also nods to how she got information when she wasn't there; I love when authors pull back the curtain a little bit. 

I'm glad Hempel is here doing her work, and I am glad her family agreed to let this story be told. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the preview copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you for the Advance Review Copy (digital) of The Family Outing by Jessi Hempel. The title is very clever and memoir is definitely my jame. I will recommend this book to readers looking for lgbtq memoir or just general family focused memoir as well.
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** spoiler alert ** *Thank you to Net Galley for the advance copy of this book.

I actually forgot this was a memoir—until I double-checked, I had started reading and thinking, "Wow, this is a really deep and realistic family." I can't even begin to explain how well-written this memoir is. As someone who comes from a complicated family, it was refreshing to read about someone else's complicated family. And yes, I know a lot of people say that their family is messy or tricky or hard, but I'm not talking about the people who use those words like a bandage, because they can't possibly comprehend your family situation.

I loved learning about each of the members of Jessi's family—their individual struggles and how they affected the collective whole. I loved moving through their journeys (albeit through her eyes solely) and the amount of growth, hardship, love, change, and more that they all experience. As someone who has moved far away from home and back, I also appreciated how much the characters moved across the U.S. and traveled outside of it, which I don't often see represented while reading unless it's some cheesy romance novel set in a different country or when someone is on a vacation (lol).

I could not put this memoir done. I loved every second of it. It may be the first memoir (maybe even the first non-fiction book?) I've ever given five stars, too, because I don't read them that often nor find them to be as "can't put this down!" as this one. For anyone who has a unique family structure or experience, this one is for you. I highly recommend "The Family Outing" by Jessi Hempel.
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Jessi Hempel does an amazing job telling the story of her family and how each of them discovered their true selves. Each person in the family dealt with coming out of the closet either as a lesbian, bisexual, transgender man, a gay man, or a woman struggling with the guilt and trauma of falling for a dangerous man. When you hear someone talk about their coming out story, immediately the idea of a person revealing their sexuality comes to mind. The most important lesson this book left me with is that everyone is struggling with coming out, whether you are gay or straight. Because the true idea of coming out is listening to your soul and doing the work for self actualization and living life as your truest self. This book was truly inspiring and a book I think everyone should read.
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I throughly enjoyed this novel. In fact, it’s one of the few lately that has held my attention throughout the entire story.    While I could see a few things coming, I never felt like rushing though it. I would definitely recommend it to friends.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I really enjoyed this memoir of a family who came out (literally) the other side of falling apart to end up as a stronger unit. I like how the author attempted to weave narrative from the perspective of her other family members, and her acknowledgement that no story ever has just one perspective. I also appreciated how sensitively she treated her family's unique expressions of queerness, particularly her trans brother.
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This was a well written memoir about a statistically unlikely family each coming out of their own closets, with a lot of care about each of the family members it discusses, and the description of the experience of a parent's depression and lashing out was a little too close for comfort. There were some bits that were maybe too introspective, and probably only of interest to the author.
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This was an interesting and emotional memoir about the author, her family, and the stories of how they all came out. The author is a lesbian, her sister is bisexual, her brother is transgender, and her dad is gay. They each had different paths towards coming out to themselves and the world.
I enjoyed learning about each of their experiences and how the family as a whole navigated these transitions. Some parts of this book are quite heavy and painful while others are full of joy and love. I really appreciated that the author chose not to ever reveal her brother’s deadname or speak of him as anything other than a boy, even during memories pre-transition. 
The events aren’t presented in chronological order, which at times felt a little scattered, but I was able to keep track of everything regardless. I’d recommend this one for people looking for memoirs about coming out and queer families.

A few TW: self-harm, cancer, death and grief

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC!
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I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through I am leaving this review voluntarily

This is what happens when people are shamed or judged, they hide, they keep secrets and they don't talk. This is one of the reasons I refuse to keep quiet about how our daughter died, she died of a drug overdose, it wasn't pretty, but she came from a family who loved her and tried their best. When we stop judging and start listening and start sharing the things we think we should be ashamed of we realize that so many others are going through similar things and we get support we feel seen and then we don't feel ashamed. 

This book shows just how damaging secrets can be.  I'm sure Jessi is glad that her parents got married otherwise she wouldn't be here but the cost of her fathers secret was her mothers happiness and it exacerbated her depression. The cost of her mothers depressions was Jessi and her siblings being emotionally neglected, which led to issues for all of the children. 

Secrets are toxic and Jessi used the pandemic to connect with her family and really dive into what happened and how it affected them all.  It is a honest book, at times funny, at times sad, but overall the honesty is what got me.  When she divulged that she read her brothers journal when he was in college I gasped but then she told him and I felt relieved that that was one more secret that wouldn't carry on through time. 

This is definitely a complicated family with so many different things going on, its amazing that they survived still talking and helped out with this memoir. It gives me hope that by sharing her hard truths about her family she will inspire others to share their secrets.
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If you’re looking for another challenging, thought-provoking, Bildungsroman memoir, look no further than The Family Outing! This book came out yesterday (10/4) and is already popular on the indie bookseller circuit. Also, the ebook is on sale for $5.99 for a limited time, so go ahead and check it out!

Synopsis: Tech writer and journalist Jessi Hempel reflects on her family’s turbulent history - in the span of 5 years, she, her two siblings, and her father all came out as part of the LGBTQ community. Henkel unpacks the “origin story” of each of the members of her family to examine the identity, relationship, and mental health struggles each person has had to traverse to reach stability and success today.

To start with, this memoir is unique in that the author not only describes her own upbringing and coming out story, but interviews and documents the experiences of her family members through what she calls “The Project” to be able to include what she wasn’t there to experience (either when she wasn’t alive or when she had left home for college and beyond). It reads like a real-life family saga novel and you will constantly reevaluate how you feel about Hempel’s parents. I particularly love the fact that there are moments where the author can’t remember the exact details of certain events or conversations, but remembers how they made her feel and how they impacted her decision-making for years. This book is truly special and one I will probably reread someday because the complexities of the parent-child and sibling relationships are so universal to contemporary life. Bonus: Hempel consciously chooses to not deadname her brother and uses he/him pronouns to refer to him even before he came out. 

Thanks to @harperonebooks and @netgalley for letting me read and review this book! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Jessi Hempel’s family excelled at keeping secrets — until they all came out. She and her father as gay, her sister as bisexual, her brother as transgender and her mother as the survivor of a traumatic experience with an alleged serial killer. The Family Outing (October, HarperOne) is a searing memoir about transformation and the costs of secrecy.
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You think your family keeps secrets? Author Jessi Hempel is gay. Her Sister is bi, her Brother trans, her Father gay and her Mother has lived with the trauma for years of almost being the victim of a serial killer. How these secrets are held and the effect it has on the three kids, in particular, constitute the bulk of this memoir. 

When I read the synopsis I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it but found this a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I appreciated seeing how this family came out of their collective closets and in particular I was focused on the effect their father’s long-held secret affected the kids. My problem with the book was since this was written from one person’s perspective (with input from her parents and siblings) it ended up reading like a series of events that were, for the most part, devoid of emotional resonance. Like a recounted timeline or a year-end holiday card that gives a recap of what everyone had done the previous year. Ultimately I ended up liking the promise of what the book could be rather than what it actually was. Thanks to @harperone and @netgalley for the advance copy.
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The Family Outing
Jessi Hempel
Harper One

The title and its clever use of a fitting double entendre lured me, but Hempel’s narrative held me captive with its multimember, family drama, over a period of several decades. A few times during my reading I checked the title page to ensure I was reading a memoir and not fiction. Although I do read a substantial number of memoirs, The Family Outing contains a story that was not necessarily so unbelievable (just like families might have multiple hetero family members, there are families with multiple LGBTQ+ family members), but it was the nature and timeframe of how the “outings” occurred that contributed to the emotional impact.

Although Hempel is detailed and notes how she corroborated past experiences with her family for her own research (a benefit of her storied career in journalism), her reflection on her family’s past proves especially advantageous. From the prologue, the reader understands that the family is now living the most authentic versions of themselves, but the meat, the marrow, of the memoir is how they all arrived there.

Readers of Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, Amy Bloom, Glennon Doyle, Janet Mock, and Nina Totenberg may appreciate this book.

Thank you to Harper One, Jessi Hempel, and NetGalley for the eARC!
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Memoirs truly are like reading someone’s diary. I am continually amazed by the vulnerability and candidness that comes with each one. The raw inner most moments and thoughts our authors let us in on.  As with most memoirs I do recommend doing your research on any possible triggers you may avoid. 

Memoirs are always so tricky in terms of reviews and wording.  We are quite literally talking about someone else’s life.  Things we normally consider with a fiction book are tricky in terms of someone’s own life story.  Did I “love” it? Did I “like” it?  Was it “good”? Was it “great”? Did I “enjoy” it? How do you phrase your appreciation for someone letting you into their own life? In my own opinion this was very well written, I thought our author did a great job of putting together many years and many relationships. I enjoyed learning about the piecing together of the book and phone calls with family members about it. I appreciated the growth everyone in the book made. And I appreciated the honesty of the struggles. It is a book I would recommend and it has great representation. I think often we can learn from others and I think this book could be very helpful, inspiring and encouraging for many people. So if those things make it “great” and “good” then I could for sure see saying it was. I really appreciated it and think it was well written and I especially appreciate our author sharing this book with us. 

Many thanks to our author, Netgalley and HarperOne for providing me with an advanced eGalley copy of the book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This “comes out” on October 4th, 2022 and I hope if you choose to read it you like it also.
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I'm not somebody who tends to race through memoir, but with this one, I couldn't stop - I had to know what would happen with each of these people.

This memoir follows the Hempel family - siblings Jessi, Katje, Evan, and their parents Paul and Pat. Through the memoir we get to learn about each of them, their early lives and into the more present time. One by one, we learn the secrets that each of them is holding, and, aside from the mom, Pat who is dealing with a trauma from her teen years, each of the other family members comes out in one way or another. Jessi comes out as a lesbian, Katje comes out as bisexual, Evan comes out as transgender, and possibly the biggest shock of all - the thing that shifts their lives the most dramatically - their father, Paul, comes out as gay.

In this memoir we see the repercussions, specifically from Paul's announcement and how drastically their family falls apart, before they very slowly put themselves back together. 

I absolutely loved this memoir and came to feel like I really knew these people. Though they're all flawed in their own way, you really start to fall in love with each of them, the things they're going through, and how radically their lives are changing. It felt like I was reading a memoir about my good friends and I was rooting for each of them to find their own peace and happiness the entire time.

I loved the way this memoir was written - not only did Jessi break the 4th wall often, talking about what it was like to write this memoir - but she also gave us a glimpse into each family member, from their own memories, rather than just speaking for them. Their family was incredibly messy at times, they all fought through mental health struggles, and naturally, identity issues, and yet it all felt like such a realistic portrayal of an every day family. I would've gladly read even more about each of these people - especially if I got to read it in their own words. 

This book will be featured on episode 58 of the Reading Through Life podcast, out October 5, 2022.
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"The Family Outing" was an interesting book.  The author is a lesbian, her sister Katje bisexual, her brother Evan transgender, her father Paul is gay, and her mother Patti narrowly missed be the victim of a serial killer.  The author was “out” as a teenager, but other family members did not come “out” until later, and the secrets they were hiding significantly affected the family dynamic. Things become particularly strained when Paul's secret is inadvertently revealed, and he and Patti have to figure out what to do about their marriage.  Their marriage was good for a number of years but had become increasingly strained because of the demands of Paul's job, Patti's significant issues with depression (which had gone unrecognized and untreated for too long), parent-child tension, especially between Patti and Jessi (the author), as well as the weight of the secrets they were hiding.  There are extended periods where one or more family members are estranged from the others, and it is not until "the Project", Jessi's effort to better understand herself and her family, including getting their perspective on events and revealing their secrets, that the family relationships start to be repaired.

Paul's coming out makes for rather interesting reading because when he decides to go public, he goes "all in" and seems to be rather "free-spirited" and ventures forth as if following a checklist of all the "stereotypical" things a gay man is supposed to do and be. Yet, he was raised to believe that being gay was immoral/evil and something that must be hidden and repressed.  The tension between what he internalized about the identity/lifestyle growing up and who he wants to be as an adult is evident in his behavior, including how he interacts with his now grown children after coming out.

Although the author had extensive conversations with her family while writing the book, the stories of her parents and siblings are filtered through the author’s lens (which she readily admits) and the portrayals are influenced by her perspective on and understanding of events.

I would have liked to read more discussion of how Katje realized and came to acceptance with her identity as bisexual and I really would have liked more discussion from Evan as to when and how he realized he was transgender and came to terms with that identity and all it could potentially entail.  Evan is depicted as someone who was comfortable being themself and not conforming to expectations, as well as feeling no obligation to explain himself to others.  He also appears to have internalized early on, based on what he had observed regarding interactions between his parents and siblings and the behavior of his immediate family, that it was better to keep a lot of things to himself/secret.  As a result, his family does not really see Evan for who he is until he reveals himself to them.  In contrast, Jessi, Katje, Paul and Patti, while not fully understanding each other, are able to recognize changes in and aspects of each other before those changes/aspects are verbalized by the person in question.

I appreciated that Jessi never reveals Evan's birthname.  It is evident from early in the story that Jessi's youngest sibling was born biologically female, and it is fairly far into the book before Evan's transition is directly discussed, but Jessi honors and respects her brother by always referring to him as Evan in the story.  

While the book focuses on very serious subjects and deals with some very difficult topics, there are also amusing and funny stories involving various family members and friends/partners/acquaintances.  The members of the family have led interesting lives, and the reader will likely be surprised by some of the things they learn throughout the book.  

I received a copy of the e-book via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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