2017: My Year In Review
“You could feel the ground shifting in January when, a day after a man caught boasting about sexual assault was sworn in as president…” Entertainment Weekly
This time last year I was anxiously counting down the days until the evening of my book launch for Kept in the Dark at Parnassus Books. My PR team was ever hopeful of finding a date where press for the book would not be overshadowed by the upcoming Presidential Inauguration. They had already encountered a few responses from media saying that they were so busy trying to keep up with the onslaught of “tweets” that they were not pursuing other stories at the moment.
On Tuesday, January 24th, I arrived at the bookstore over an hour ahead of when my talk would begin. I walked in to find a few folks already there and by the time my dear friend, Bing Davis, introduced me, the store had filled to capacity and displays were being pushed back to allow more people to find a place to sit or stand. It was a magical evening with relatives, friends from school, church, business and social media. Even my high school prom date, fresh from the Women’s March in Washington, was there to support me. I felt at peace knowing that this was what I was supposed to be doing.
The previous year I had finally allowed myself to go through a box of my parents’ letters, photos, newspaper clippings and cards from friends that told of a crime from 1954. I was two years old at the time and had no memory of the events that had led to my dad being arrested for molesting a minor. I will never know the whole story but after the shock of finding out, I decided I wanted to know as much as I could and began to research. I spent the year opening one door after another until I felt I had pieced together what my parents went through – and then I began to write.
I knew in my heart that I was meant to share this tale and by doing so, I revealed that I too, beginning at the age of seven, had been molested. It happened within our church over a period of several years with three men. I did not elaborate on my situation as I wanted this book to be my parents’ story, and yet, I found myself being overwhelmed by the similar experiences that friends and strangers shared with me.
The year offered me chances to speak out against abuse on an individual basis as well as through book clubs, book signings, television news programs and as a featured author in October for the Southern Festival of Books. I took a very vocal stand by withdrawing from a local art show at a private school where the media reported the sexual abuse of a student and the school’s lack of response. By doing so, I had parents of students past and present contact me to offer their support and their own stories and thoughts regarding the situation. I was able to make more people aware of the non-profit organization STARS and the amazing work that they do within our schools especially in helping students deal with abuse and bullying. I am grateful to all of those who chose to make donations to help them continue the good works that they do.
I feel blessed that very little negative response to my book has been brought to my attention. There have been some that formed an opinion of what they thought the book was about once they learned the crime. And there have been a few that, after reading the book, questioned why I chose to reveal this awful family secret. Some friendships have been strained while others were strengthened. I honestly had no problem with those that disagreed with my choices until they suggested that I should keep my opinions to myself – I will no longer stay silent.
Also in this year, I decided it was time to come to terms with what had happened to me as a child. To finally face those demons and examine why I reacted as I did – why did I let things escalate to the point of taking unnecessary risks all the way into adulthood. I found that writing everything down chronologically helped me to make sense of and understand better my imperfect life. And by doing so, I have now written a second book – and this time, it’s my story.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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