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Thirty years after her father’s death, Karen McClintock sets out to find the gay father she never really knew. As we follow the unraveling family secret, we find ourselves drawn into her story as they stumble into infidelity, grieve heartbreaking losses, and remain loyal in love.
Set in Columbus, Ohio, My Father’s Closet tells the story of how just before the war, McClintock’s parents fell in love and married, while overseas in Germany the man whom she believes became her father’s lover was concealing his Jewish and gay identities in order to escape to America. A set of her father’s journals, letters her parents sent to each other during the Second World War, and a mysterious painting all lead her toward the truth about her gay father. McClintock weaves a complex secret into the fabric of lives we truly care about. And in the process, she leads us out of her father’s closet.
This gripping memoir captures the longing children feel for a distant or hidden parent and taps into the complexity of human connection and abandonment. The characters are resilient and vibrant. The hidden lovers, the nosey neighbors, and surprise lovers all show up. In the end, this extraordinary family finds ways to connect and freedom to love. Anyone who grew up with a family secret will appreciate the dynamics afoot in this fast-paced and compelling story.
About the Author
Karen A. McClintock, PhD, is a psychologist specializing in family secrets and shame recovery. She is a national workshop leader and teaches human sexuality at Southern Oregon University. She is the author of four previous books, including Sexual Shame: An Urgent Call to Healing and Shame-Less Lives, Grace-Full Congregations.
“From the outside, the McClintocks looked about as wholesome and midwestern as it gets. But on the inside, a bewildering emotional vacuum was taking a complicated toll. Karen McClintock reconstructs the details of her father’s double life with novelistic flair, keen psychological insight, and graceful compassion.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home (2006), Are You My Mother? (2012), and 2014 MacArthur Fellow
“In My Father’s Closet, Karen McClintock reports from the heart of America, the heart of the twentieth century, and the heart of a daughter who struggled to understand and draw close to a kind and loving father who kept her at a poignant distance in order to protect necessary illusions. This fascinating and eloquent memoir reveals the price our society extracted from its gay people (and their families) who refused to marginalize themselves simply because the absolute truth of their hearts did not fit the accepted mold.” —Candace Walsh, author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity
“My Father’s Closet is a gift of love, filling the reader with a gorgeous blend of sadness and hope. Fear of being different has driven too many American families to pain and tragedy. I felt honored and moved to have gotten to know this family through beautifully crafted prose.” —Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
“Making discoveries—sometimes unwanted ones—is the subject of McClintock’s memoir, My Father’s Closet. . . . The evidence the author accumulates over the years regarding her father’s true sexuality is intriguing. . . . To her credit, McClintock works not only to piece together her father’s story but also to imagine his struggle and anguish through it all.” —Dale Boyer, The Gay & Lesbian Review