Clinical psychologist and author of The Defining Decade, Meg Jay reveals the secret world of the family hero: those who soar to unexpected heights after childhood adversity.

Early adversities are experienced by nearly 75% of us. If you are wondering if this includes you, ask yourself the following. Before the age of 20:

  • Did you lose a parent or sibling through death or divorce?
  • Did a parent or a sibling often swear at you, put you down, humiliate you, or act in a way that made you feel afraid?
  • Did you live with an adult or a sibling who was a problem drinker, or who abused other drugs?
  • Were you ever bullied by, or afraid of, kids at your school or in your neighborhood?
  • Did you live with an adult or sibling who struggled with a mental illness, or some other illness or special need?
  • Did a parent or a sibling often push, grab, slap, or throw something at you, or ever hit you so hard that you had bruises, marks or other injuries?
  • Were you isolated from friends your age, or unable to go to school?
  • Did you live in a family that struggled to pay medical or grocery bills, or did you often wear dirty clothes or live somewhere that was unclean or unkept?
  • Did someone in your household go to jail?
  • Did a parent, sibling, or another person at least five years older, touch your body in a sexual way or ask you to do something similar?
  • Was a parent or sibling in your household sometimes hit, kicked, slapped, or ever threatened with a weapon?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions—or if you lived with an adversity not mentioned just above—you are not the only one. Yet, often such experiences are kept secret as are our courageous battles to overcome them.

Drawing on two decades of work with clients and students, Dr. Jay tells the tale of “the strong ones” in troubled families and communities, everyday superheroes who have made a life out of dodging bullets and leaping over obstacles, even as they hide in plain sight as doctors, artists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, parents, activists, teachers, students and more. Taking us deep into their hearts and minds, she explores not only “How do they do it?” but also “How does it feel?”

These powerful stories, and those of public figures from Andre Agassi to Jay Z, will show family heroes everywhere they are not alone but are, in fact, in good company.

Marvelously researched and compassionately written, this extraordinary book narrates the continuing saga of family heroes all around us as it challenges us to consider whether—and how—the good wins out in the end.


“This extraordinary book taught me more about resilience than anything else I’ve read. With the ear of a therapist and the voice of a novelist, Meg Jay delves deep into the human condition to illuminate how we find strength after suffering. It’s impossible to read Supernormal without seeing yourself in it—and without seeing yourself more clearly too.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

“Adversity is much more common than we think. But so is resilience, as Meg Jay reveals in this remarkable book.  With a storyteller’s grace and a clinician’s insight, Jay explains how everyday superheroes triumph over traumas of every kind — and how you can use their inspiration and lessons to transform your own life.”
—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive

“Supernormal is one of those rare books that has value for everyone. If you want to understand the complex impact of childhood adversity, the power of human connection, and the story of resilience, you need to read this book.”
—Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, author of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

“In a world where quick fixes masquerade as the secret to health and happiness, SUPERNORMAL saves the day with an inspirational account of resilience that never shortchanges the pain, risk, or complexity of the challenges involved. Masterfully researched, eloquently written, and deeply felt, SUPERNORMAL satisfies at every level.”
—Daphne de Marneffe, PhD, author of Maternal Desire and The Rough Patch 

“On our long journey through life, sometimes we get knocked down by adversity. Meg Jay’s brilliant analysis of how to rise up even stronger is essential reading for all of us on the path of everyday heroism​.”
​—Philip Zimbardo, PhD, president of the The Heroic Imagination Project