My journey so far
I was alone when I watched the movie Spotlight, and although I have read books, watched TV shows and movies that have dealt with the subject of sexual abuse – none, until then, had brought me to the point of hysterical sobbing by the time the credits rolled. But then I have spent over 50 years keeping my own childhood abuse a secret. I also had stored a box of letters, newspaper articles and photos for 15 years, even though I suspected it contained information about my father being accused of abusing a minor.
When the movie ended, I immediately brought that box in from my garage and began sorting the envelopes by postmark. The time had finally come. I was ready to read everything my parents had saved for me. I felt that I could now face the truth about my father and finally admit what had happened to me.
After two months of being emotionally in a very dark place, I began to write. The letters exchanged between my parents told the story of a crime, a separation, a mother trying to carry on for her jailed husband and her two-year-old son. But this was not anything I remembered, knew about or had any suspicions. To tell this story, I also needed to tell the story about the parents I knew and loved. My memoir, Kept in the Dark, started to take shape and the most amazing people began entering my life and through these connections my book became a reality.
The book launch took place at Parnassus Books in front of an overflowing crowd. Childhood and church friends, cousins, school friends, artists, gallery customers, my parents’ friends and peers and even Facebook friends that had followed my journey through my posts found a seat or place to stand as I shared my journey. Not only did they learn the secret my parents had kept hidden until after their deaths but also my own secret that I had never voiced until then.
From the beginning I had told my agents and public relations team that I would not be the poster boy for the abused. I am not trained or educated to be able to help those that have been sexually abused. All I have is my story which I was willing to share. However, once the story came out, friends and total strangers began to tell me their own experiences. My heart would break over and over again, but I realized that it did not matter because my voice had given voice to others. These brave souls just needed someone to listen.
I have started writing again but this time it’s my story. Kept in the Dark told my parents’ tale but now it’s time to tell mine – a confused, damaged, broken childhood hidden behind a big smile. My abuse began at seven within my church but had escalated to destructive behavior by the time I was in high school. My memoir is taking shape as I intertwine my stories with my song lyrics that I now realize had been my way of journalling my feelings through the years. Songs from an Imperfect Life will be a 2018 release.
I am honored to be a featured author for the Southern Festival of Books October 13-15 in Nashville. I will be speaking Friday, October 13 at one o’clock in the downtown Nashville Public Library – Teen Suite, followed by a book signing. I will share part of my Kept in the Dark journey as well as offer a preview of Songs from an Imperfect Life. I hope my words will be meaningful to others. And I hope, if able, that you will join me.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
Liked this blog post? Join my VIP List!