“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
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 she and her family 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 who 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 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 lives, 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.
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.