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The Family Outing

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Member Reviews

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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The Family Outing by Jessi Hempel is an honest, striking memoir about a family impacted by queerness and secrecy in many ways. Jessi grew up in a family where everyone was hiding something - by her early 20s everyone in her family had revealed a big truth about themselves and life as they knew was being reshaped to fit their new reality.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I appreciate how honest and thoughtful the author is. I was really riveted at the start and found there to be some unnecessary tangents or details at time that took me away from the engagement of the main plot. That being said, I found this to be a worthwhile and meaningful read.

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperOne for the ARC - The Family Outing is out 10/4/22!

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What does it mean to “come out”? In this memoir written by Jessi Hempel, we dive into not only stories of all siblings coming out; one is a lesbian, one is a trans man, and the other is bisexual while their dad, later in life comes out as gay and their mom deals with a trauma from her childhood that has affected her for the rest of her life

What an interesting read this was! Not only learning about each sibling and their eventual “coming out” but also with the undercurrent of emotions and problems that holding onto secrets can have on a family. As someone who had to come out to my family at a young age there is definitely a BEFORE (being bullied in silence, being scared to be found out), a DURING (dealing with your own emotions on top of those of your family that feel strongly about sexuality even if it has 0 to do with them) and an AFTER (everyone realizes it’s not a stage, it’s who you are and they accept you; or don’t) letting go of this secret is so terrifying and freeing and traumatizing and healing that unless you’ve gone through this it’s hard to explain exactly how long it takes to feel like your true “self”

This memoir had everything from emotions, to rollercoaster story telling and even some murdery vibes! HIGHLY RECOMMEND

OUT 10/4/2022

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I liked the book a lot but I did feel like it lacked some reflection. It was a lot of "we didn't know they were gay, they came out, it's cool" which is amazing but a little flat for a memoir! I would have liked a little more depth, at times I almost felt like I was reading a book of interviews rather than a memoir. I didn't feel like the author really processed or reflected much on what happened or her family and that is an odd choice for a memoirist.

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This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This title publishes October 4, 2022.

This memoir follows the author’s family wherein multiple people come out: the author herself is gay, her sister is bisexual, her dad is gay, and her brother is trans. The author recounts her experiences growing up in this family, each of the family members’ coming out experiences, and how all of these things affected each of the family members' livelihoods.

Ultimately, I did not enjoy the writing in this memoir due the experiences being told exclusively from the author’s point of view described more as a play-by-play summary than as an inviting challenging emotional recounting. This left me feeling disconnected from the moments and stories in the book that were supposed to be emotionally hard hitting.

-Honesty with which the author wrote about the family’s dysfunction and complexities
-Honesty with which the author wrote about each family member’s journey to overcome their struggles
-Optimistic outlook written regarding the family coming together to share their story

-The author recounted her parents’ and siblings’ coming out experiences from her own perspective. Since it wasn’t a personal account, it felt like a glazed over summary of each of these people’s experiences, rather than an emotionally vulnerable account. The entire book felt like a summary of each of these people’s lives rather than an emotional deep dive of their formative experiences, emotional journey, and coming out process.
-It seemed like the author prioritized page time for her family members’ experiences and not her own, so I still feel like I never really learned about our author’s own feelings and experiences.
-For example, the author tells us something her brother did while the author was in college. The author summarizes the event and admits she did not know at the time that this event occurred, since she was in college at the time and didn’t talk to her brother much. Then, we really never got to see what the author herself was doing at the time in college, or how she eventually found out about the brother’s experiences that were just described. Thus, the reader never learns of the deep emotional impact that either of these people were experiencing from the event described.
-The timeline was disjointed and hard to follow at times. We would hear about an event happening in their family, and then the event would be reiterated from a different person’s perspective two chapters later.
-The memoir felt long, yet we never really got to feel connected to the interpersonal feelings of anyone. It felt like a summary of the family, not a personal account.
-I would’ve DNFd if it weren’t for a NetGalley review

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From the beginning, Jessi Hempel grabbed my attention with her writing. Her ability to tell the story of her family from her perspective -but also with giving honor to their different perceptions of their family- is impeccable. She discusses the complexity of family life and the whole concept of coming out throughout the book. In the middle, I wanted it to be shorter by fifty pages but by the end I wasn't sure what could have been edited out. This book has the potential to start necessary conversations within family units and also within book club settings.

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The Family Outing
by Jessi Hempel
Pub Date: October 4, 2022
Harper One
Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I love to read memoirs.
A striking and remarkable literary memoir about one family's transformation, with almost all of them embracing their queer identities.
By the time Jessi reached adulthood, everyone in her family had come out: Jessi as gay, her sister as bisexual, her father as gay, her brother as transgender, and her mother as a survivor of a traumatic experience with an alleged serial killer. Yet coming out was just the beginning, starting a chain reaction of other personal revelations and reckonings that caused each of them to question their place in the world in new and ultimately liberating ways.
Biography Memoir
3 stars

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This is heavy! I could see myself summarizing this piece or using an excerpt for my high schoolers but not using the entirety of the book. It’s an interesting story full of heaviness.

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I should’ve loved this, a memoir where everyone is on the lgbt spectrum, minus mom who’s got a serial killer story… but I just didn’t really connect to the story telling.

Up front the author says they had time over the pandemic to interview her family, and I guess how it reads feels like that. I wanted a much deeper dive on all her family members, but each one’s story was “they came out and we had no idea the whole time, but we were all cool with it”.

Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of “The Family Outing” in exchange for an honest review. What a fantastic book. I imagine that this was quite and exhausting and exhaustive undertaking on Hempel’s (and her family’s) behalf. This memoir weaves together generations of a family—and most in depth, Hempel’s immediate family. She weaves throughout the past and the present while clearly articulating her hopes for the future. This was beautifully written. Really well done. It was an honor to read. Thank you to Hempel’s for having the fortitude to write this and her family for the courage to be written about.

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