“What I like to do as a journalist is to understand people’s deeply held beliefs, and understand how they shape them into who they are…what the daily negotiations are that people make, where did they try, where did they fail, where did they do the best they could.”
Part memoir, part investigative reporting, award-winning reporter Casey Parks’ debut book Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and Mystery is the story of her life-changing journey to unravel the mystery of Roy Hudgins. When Parks came out as a lesbian in college in 2002, she faced rejection from her family and pastor—who asked God to kill her—and assumed her life in the South was over. But Parks’ 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.
For ten years, Parks traveled to her grandmother’s hometown in rural Louisiana, knocking on strangers’ doors, digging through nursing home records and studying microfiche in small-town libraries trying to uncover the mysteries of Roy Hudgin’s life: a rumored childhood kidnapping, mysterious final years, fiercely-protected diaries—and persistent questions about how the small-town country musician with the pack of stray dogs grappled with his sense of otherness.
“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 (cover review)
Winner of the 2021 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from the Columbia School of Journalism and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, Diary of a Misfit is Parks’ effort to answer her grandmother’s questions about what became of Roy, and her own attempt to find her place in the world. “I kept digging into Roy’s life hoping some stray fact might reveal something to me,” Parks writes. “I didn’t want to die feeling as if I’d never fit anywhere.” Over a decade of reporting trips, she reckons 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. Praising the book as a “moving, empowering, searching tale,” Oprah Daily asserts, “Parks has written a memoir that will serve as a beacon for many others still yearning to no longer feel like misfits.” Diary of a Misfit was name a best book of 2022 by the Washington Post and Kirkus.
Parks covers gender and family issues for the Washington Post, where she has written about Texas’ investigation of parents of trans kids, abortion access, and the long tail of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
She spent a decade as a staff reporter 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, Oxford American, ESPN, USA Today, and The Nation. Parks’ stories have won the Deadline Club Award, Front Page Award, National Headliner Award, and multiple Society for Features Journalism awards. A graduate of Millsaps College and a former Spencer Fellow at Columbia University, Parks lives in Portland, Oregon.