Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador


This is the memoir of James C. Hormel—a man who grew up feeling different not only because his family owned the Hormel “empire” and lived in a twenty-six-bedroom house in a small Midwest town, but because he was gay at a time when homosexuality was not discussed or accepted. Outwardly he tried to live up to the life his father wanted for him—he was a successful professional, had married a lovely woman, and had children—but as vola-tile changes in the late 1960s impeded on the American psyche, Hormel realized that he could not hide his true self forever.

Hormel moved to New York City, became an antiwar activist, battled homophobia, lost dear friends to AIDS, and set out to become America’s first openly gay ambassador, a position he finally won during the Clinton administration. Today, Hormel continues to fight for LGBT equality and gay marriage rights. This is a passionate and inspiring true story of the determination for human equality and for attaining your own version of the American Dream—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without exception.

Fit to Serve is as inspiring as it is engaging, a window into the paradoxical hardships that come with being raised in a life of privilege; the struggle to embrace ones personal identity; and the rewards of overcoming fear to fight for a cause. In today’s very uncertain world rife with problems, Ambassador Hormel's story reminds readers that we each have the power to make positive change that is bigger than ourselves. Showing the power of the each individual, Hormel's memoir is a call for collective action.


North American publisher : Skyhorse Publishing

Foreign rights contact: Kathryn Mennone (

Film rights contact: Gillian MacKenzie (



"A spirited, affecting life story."--Richard Labonte, author and critic

“Jim Hormel is that rarest of hyphenates: an activist-philanthropist. His generosity is legendary, but his greatest gift came not from his personal wealth but from his willingness to claim his own heart — proudly and with unforgettable dignity — in the face of public vilification. Well done, Mr. Ambassador.”--Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City

“Jim fought the right-wing smear machine and won. May his story inspire all those laboring against the hate and fear that pollutes our public discourse today. Jim reminds us that it’s worth the fight.”--David Brock, Founder, Media Matters for America

“Rich, engrossing, and deeply affecting, Fit To Serve is an intimate account of James Hormel’s landmark journey from the deep confusion of a privileged but closeted life to the bold and unswerving activism through which he also found his best self. In the truest sense, this is a great American story.”--Richard North Patterson, New York Times best-selling author

“Jim Hormel’s spirited story is a refreshing reminder of the power of the individual in America. This book documents that a person driven by the courage of his or her convictions can still push the world to become a fairer, more equal place.”--Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives

“Future generations will look at this book and experience their history told honestly and courageously.”--Moisés Kaufman, writer (with members of Tectonic Theater Project) of The Laramie Project