FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – For some people, what happens behind closed doors can remain a secret for a lifetime, but author and musician J. Ronald M. York is breaking his silence, opening up for the first time about the personal hardships he smiled through and the “other life” he led for years.
Releasing on March 18, 2018, “Songs from an Imperfect Life” is the followup to York’s stunning debut memoir, “Kept in the Dark,” which chronicled the discovery of a grim family secret that was kept from him until just a few years ago when he accidentally stumbled across a box of letters between his mother and father. The secret? His father, a Boy Scout troop leader, had been locked up for sexual abuse of a child. York grew up knowing nothing about his father’s crime, and this discovery dramatically changed his life forever.
Peppered with York’s own poetry, song lyrics and family photos, “Songs from an Imperfect Life” takes readers on a journey through his fractured childhood in Nashville, where at 7 years old he was molested for the first time by a member of his church. Writing with pure honesty and powerful self reflection, York seamlessly weaves in stories about his encounters as a teenager with older men in dark movie theaters, his suicide attempt and a deluge of intense experiences that came along with growing up gay in the South in the ‘60s.
“With the release of my first book, ‘Kept in the Dark,’ I found myself overwhelmed by friends and strangers wanting to share with me their own personal stories of abuse – many talking about it for the first time,” York says. “I realized then that by coming forward with my parents’ story as well as my own, people were finding the courage to speak up and wanted to be heard. I truly believe there is a reason, a purpose for what happened to me. The bad decisions and risky behavior that followed has led me to a place where I feel I might can be of help to others – even if it’s only to listen without judgment.”
J. Ronald M. York, author of “Songs from an Imperfect Life” and “Kept in the Dark,” graduated from Belmont University with studies in voice and piano. He spent the next two decades in the field of interior design before opening his first art gallery in Nashville, Tenn. When not in the gallery, York can be found in his studio painting, at his piano composing, or assisting numerous nonprofit agencies with fundraising. He currently resides in Nashville with his cat, Miss Trixie Delight.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“Songs from an Imperfect Life”
J. Ronald M. York | March 18, 2018
St. Broadway Press LLC
$29.95 (hardcover) | $9.99 (ebook)
J. Ronald M. York has no memory of his third birthday party, or the fact that his father was not present. Family photos reveal a smiling child, while letters and newspaper clippings explain his father’s absence – he was in jail after being arrested for molesting Ron’s 13-year-old cousin.
The following year, the York family had relocated from Miami to Nashville. They joined First Baptist Church and tried to start over. His parents, busy keeping the secrets of their own past, were unaware that their 7-year-old son had begun keeping secrets, too. Over the next several years, Ron was molested by three men within the church. And by the age of 10, the sexual activity had expanded into downtown movie theaters, department store restrooms and beyond.
Although on a destructive and dangerous path, Ron kept his “other life” hidden behind a smile as his parents had done, so much so that even his occasional cries for help went unheeded. As a teenager, Ron found an outlet for expressing his thoughts, dreams and pain through the lyrics in his musical compositions.
Now that his late father’s secrets have been revealed, York believes there must be a reason and a purpose for his own complicated and flawed life. Songs from an Imperfect Life is a raw, honest confessional of a broken child’s desperate need for attention, and an account of his journey toward healing the pain that his family never expressed.
An Interview with J. Ronald M. York
You’ve kept many of the stories in your book private for so long. Why reveal them now?
I never thought that I would want parts of my past to be known. What would people think? Would they judge me? Of course they will judge – it’s human nature. However, there is something very freeing about exposing one’s secrets. But the most amazing thing is realizing we all have secrets and by sharing mine, others feel empowered to do the same.
Was writing this book therapeutic?
Most definitely. We all have those disjointed memories that we can recall, whether good or bad. “Remember that time when…” “And then there was the time that…” By taking those memories and placing them in chronological order, I was able to see, for the first time, a pattern. I now saw how one event led to another and another often escalating out of control. It gave me a better understanding as to why and how I so easily crossed over lines until I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my way back.
Over the years, you found deep solace in writing music and poetry. How did those creative outlets help you through the darkest moments of your life?
After “Kept in the Dark” was released, childhood memories came flooding back and I decided it was time to ask for professional help. One of the first questions asked was if I ever kept a diary or journal. My answer was “No.” However, in writing about one relationship, I remembered that I wrote a song during my time with him. When I looked for the lyrics, I found a forgotten file of poetry and songs written as far back as my days in junior high. As I began to read, I realized that I had been journaling all along. These words were often written in response to what was happening in my life at that time. I’ve included many in the stories that I share as they help to flesh out the emotion that I was feeling.
In your new book, you describe yourself as a survivor rather than a victim. Can you elaborate on that?
No one wants to be a victim. I was abused as a child, but I was never physically harmed. I experienced male on male sex before puberty and continued down that path in a time where there was no one (parents, church or friends) that I could confide in. I took so many risks as I sought the attention that I first felt as a 7-year-old. I felt conflicted between knowing what I wanted and what others preached as being wrong. And yet, even with an overwhelming sense of loneliness, to the point of trying to harm myself, I survived. I reached a point of accepting even if those around me did not. And now, I see that my experiences might be of help to others. I will not allow myself to be the victim.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading “Songs from an Imperfect Life?”
I hope that they will see we should never judge others or assume their life might be better or easier than our own. I have friends that say they always remember me as the kid with the big smile. What they did not know was how often that smile was simply a facade. We all have secrets, struggles and things we might be ashamed of or embarrassed by if they were to be known. I hope readers will see past the flawed life and the bad decisions. None of us can predict how we might act if put in the same situation.
What’s next for you?
I definitely want to keep writing and will continue sharing stories in my weekly blog. But I also welcome the opportunity of public speaking – to be able share more of my experiences in hopes that my survival can be seen as encouragement for someone that is struggling.
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