Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery

Knopf. Aug. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780525658535. $29. MEMOIR
Parks, a Washington Post reporter, has penned a work that’s more speculative than investigative and significantly more tragic than mysterious. For over a decade, Parks interviewed witnesses and family members in her rural hometown in Louisiana in search of answers about the life of Roy Hudgins, assigned female at birth and who lived and dressed as a man. What should be a fascinating cross section of Roy’s mystery and Parks’s history is instead a tangled mess of small-town gossip, flawed research, and shallow reporting (bordering on exploitive) from unreliable narrators, including Parks. Parks shares her backstory, attempting to create parallels between Roy and herself as she tackles her own fears about her sexuality, faith, and isolation. Unfortunately, her investigation provides so little evidence of who Roy actually was and who Parks really is, that the final product is more a discursive collection of contradictions and embellishments than true investigative journalism or memoir. The memoir heavily features familial struggles with opioid addiction, narcissism, and poverty.
VERDICT Less a journey of discovery and more the account of a complicated daughter-mother relationship laden with guilt and neglect.
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