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Golden Hour Books

Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery by Casey Parks (9/26/23)

Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery by Casey Parks (9/26/23)

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Part memoir, part sweeping journalistic saga: As Casey Parks follows the mystery of a stranger's past, she is forced to reckon with her own sexuality, her fraught Southern identity, her tortured yet loving relationship with her mother, and the complicated role of faith in her life.

"Most moving is Parks’s depiction of a queer lineage, her assertion of an ancestry of outcasts, a tapestry of fellow misfits into which the marginalized will always, for better or worse, fit." —The New York Times Book Review

When Casey Parks came out as a lesbian in college back in 2002, she assumed her life in the South was over. Her mother shunned her, and her pastor asked God to kill her. But then Parks's grandmother, a stern conservative who grew up picking cotton, pulled her aside and revealed a startling secret. "I grew up across the street from a woman who lived as a man," and then implored Casey to find out what happened to him. Diary of a Misfit is the story of Parks's life-changing journey to unravel the mystery of Roy Hudgins, the small-town country singer from grandmother’s youth, all the while confronting ghosts of her own.

     For ten years, Parks traveled back to rural Louisiana and knocked on strangers’ doors, dug through nursing home records, and doggedly searched for Roy’s own diaries, trying to uncover what Roy was like as a person—what he felt; what he thought; and how he grappled with his sense of otherness. With an enormous heart and an unstinting sense of vulnerability, Parks writes about finding oneself through someone else’s story, and about forging connections across the gulfs that divide us.

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"Diary of a Misfit is at once dewy-eyed and diligent, capricious and capacious, empathetic and exacting. It’s as richly textured as a pot of gumbo. As a work of autobiography, it’s maximalist; subtitled A Memoir and a Mystery, it certainly is both of those things, but it’s also an assiduous family history, a decades-spanning community chronicle à la Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, a coming-out narrative, a dive into Christian denominations, a wrestling with Southern heritage... Most moving is Parks’s depiction of a queer lineage, her assertion of an ancestry of outcasts, a tapestry of fellow misfits into which the marginalized will always, for better or worse, fit." —Michelle Hart, New York Times Book Review (cover review)

"Parks...[is] a vivid storyteller...Readers familiar with her work in the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine know her as a thoughtful, precise journalist who communicates her characters’ humanity and the stakes of a story through evocative details....Parks’s writing shines in the story that she can meticulously report: her own...Parks is an exceptional chronicler of her family and experience. She leans into the beats of stories she’s expertly honed over the years...She manages the rare feat of writing about her family with both an awareness of its flaws and a respect for privacy. She chooses revealing anecdotes carefully, alluding to family challenges that aren’t hers to share. A self-described listener, she chronicles her pain at a remove...Some scenes feel straight out of Mary Karr, but without the raw rancor...a compelling triumph" --Charley Locke, The Washington Post

"[A] stunning work of memoir and reportage.... Delving deep into ideas of sexuality, identity, otherness, and love, Diary of a Misfit is a must-read." —Sarah Neilson, Them

"A beautifully written and deeply reported epic about what it means to be Southern, what it means to be queer, what it means to belong to a family. Casey Parks is a tender, brilliant storyteller. I was haunted and moved by this account of the different Americas she inhabits." —Claire Dederer, author of Love and Trouble

“Parks' engrossing book is an excavation—emotional, familial, spiritual, and perhaps above all else, regional. The Louisiana she can't leave behind—and one mysterious inhabitant in particular—haunt her early adulthood as she grapples with what it means to be a daughter, a writer, an outlier, and, in her own way, a believer.” —Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply

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About the Author

CASEY PARKS is a reporter for The Washington Post who covers gender and family issues. She was previously a staff reporter at the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press and spent a decade at The Oregonian, where she wrote about race and LGBTQ+ issues and was a finalist for the Livingston Award. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, ESPN, USA Today, and The Nation. A former Spencer Fellow at Columbia University, Parks was most recently awarded the 2021 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for her work on Diary of a Misfit. Parks lives in Portland.

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