Author: J. Ronald M. York

Publisher: St. Broadway Press

ISBN: 978-0-9982734-4-0

The major contrast between Songs from an Imperfect Life and its predecessor, Kept in the Dark, is that the latter work was based on the letters written by J. Ronald M. York’s mother to his father while he was in the Dade County Courthouse jail in downtown Miami for two months in the fall of 1955, on charges of child molestation, whereas York’s later work is very much the author’s own memoir, telling of the sexual abuse that he suffered from a very young age (7 years old, to be exact). Because York is most definitely the victim (though he prefers to be known as a survivor) of childhood grooming and seduction, within the Baptist Church (specifically by three men within the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee) in the 1950s, he gains our sympathy from the start. In contrast, many of the audience of Kept in the Dark have been torn between whether to support and approve of the love between his parents, which was so strong that it enabled their marriage to survive York Sr.’s public disgrace and incarceration, or to inveigh against his mother’s devotion to her spouse, at the possible expense of her own offspring’s safety.

Despite the mental, moral and spiritual anguish that has filled York’s life (so much so that he has only truly been able to come to grips with its cause in his mid-60s), the tone of the work is surprisingly upbeat and non-self-deprecatory. No doubt gaining such a perspective, which has clearly been a lifelong struggle, has, at least in part, been due to York’s own artistic ability, which has been expressed in such positive terms throughout his life, both domestically and professionally. Apart from being a song writer (and several of his songs appear at strategic points throughout the text), he also paints in his own studio and composes music while he is at home. To voice one’s despair and self-doubt in artistic expression is clearly a prime facilitator of the release of one’s deepest emotions—such a fact York Jr. is well acquainted with, and the artist in him rejoices in the freedom that such media give him.

Ironically enough, the Baptist Church is by no means just the setting of the start of York’s abuse, but it is also shown to be the nurturer of his talent as an interior decorator. Despite paternal opposition to his involvement in the design and decoration of his church, the strong and sensitive director of the church’s Primary Children’s Department astutely picked up on his ability to create beautiful table pieces, and fostered his growth in that direction. The similarity between the hardships borne by both the young York and the youthful Elliot Tiber (of Palm Trees on the Hudson: A True Story of The Mob, Judy Garland & Interior Decorating and Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life fame), despite their initial faith-based differences (with the former Christian, the latter Jewish), are marked. The target audience of the two should, therefore, be closely aligned, with them both attracting more or less the same type of reader—the two men are admirable role models for younger people, with both having really strong personalities and the determination to get ahead, no matter what. One can but admire the tenacity of their spirit, and the indomitability of their outlook on life. In short, both authors’ works come highly commended, especially to the more bohemian and creative of mind.