||Apr 1 2003
Barnes & Noble.com
Real Stories, Untold Truths is a continuation of the author’s effort to understand one human being, one man who had within himself the power to achieve greatness, yet fell from grace, only to land at the very bottom. It’s a place where none of us wants to go—homeless, and alone.
Excerpt: After visiting New Bern, my next trip was to New York. Before I left, I received another note from J.C. written on scraps of paper. "You might not recognize me when you see me, L.A. Living on the streets has been hell on me. I found a car for $800, but I need money. Please send me money." I couldn't send him money. And I wouldn't. I was never sure where his money went, so I wouldn't take that chance. It bothered me, though, that he didn’t have a place to clean up or sleep in. Maybe I’d just put him up in a motel for a week, I thought. I had sent J.C. a care package the previous week, and a note indicating a day and time to meet. I included a copy of the first seven chapters of the new book. I received a note from him, saying that he liked the book so far, and was waiting for the remaining chapters. He also confirmed our meeting date and time. I was anxious to hear what J.C. thought about the book.
I knew that I had portrayed him as a person with some paranoid tendencies. What did he think about that, I wondered? Did he just see the book as a story about a character that was only based on him, but not really him? Was it as if he were reading about someone else?
I arrived at Columbus Circle early on July 4. I needed time to gather my thoughts and prepare myself for this visit with J.C. The heat had already settled in like a canopy above me. How would J.C. be faring in this 100-degree heat? His health wasn't good, and carrying all those bags would be terribly burdensome. What would he look like? I pictured him walking slowly, layered in clothes, sporting a long beard and hair. I felt my eyes tear up. I was curious about his daily schedule. I wondered if he thought living on the streets had changed since the early nineties, when he was first homeless.
Nothing could have prepared me for seeing J.C. He wore a black, long-sleeved shirt, black pants, and black leather shoes. His face and neck were neatly shaven around his gray beard, and a few dreds stuck out from his cap. He looked like he had lost weight. He walked his familiar walk—slow, casual, and confident. He certainly did not look like he had been living on the streets. I walked up to him. “You look good, J.C. Not what I expected.”
A smile formed at the corner of his mouth. “Maybe I should start sleeping on the streets.”
I kidded. J.C. laughed. “Let’s go over to the rose garden where we can sit and talk, Laurie.”
"I have many questions for you, J.C.” He nodded.
“There will be plenty of time for that. Now, how long are you staying in New York? There are some people who want to meet you.”
Street people, drug dealers, crackhouse friends, I thought. “You’ve made some new friends, J.C.?” “I certainly have. I certainly have.”
He reached into his bag. “But first, the book.” He handed me the chapters I had sent him. Page by page. he explained his corrections. “What do you think about how I portrayed you?”
“No problem with it at all. You’ve made me interesting enough so people will want to keep reading. You can say whatever you want to help sell the book.” He didn’t realize that I just wrote the truth as I saw it.
"There will always be someone who needs help. We aren’t responsible for others, yet our ability to reach out to one another makes this world a better place. I don’t think we are here just to serve ourselves. There is a bigger plan, a connectiveness that makes our lives stronger and better, when we care about others. I know that making the commitment to help others benefits everyone involved. I was helping J.C, and by extending my love, I learned about myself."
Your book sparkles with humility. I was moved by the compassion you had for J.C., yet impressed by the boundaries you set. You didn’t pull punches, you laid it all out—and J.C. chose to interpret what you wrote his own way. That should serve to make every writer realize there’s no excuse for not being entirely explicit. Don’t worry about people’s ability to “take the truth.” If they can’t take it, they’ll reinterpret it. Ron Grunberg, Editor, Big News and Upward N.Y.
Who is J.C.?
Who is J.C.? What is hidden behind the amiable facade of an unusually engaging and intelligent homeless? How did he go from evident riches and expensive education to rags and worse? In a page turner of a book, Laurie Anthony describes her quest for answers to this baffling riddle - a mission that ultimately proves to be a path of painful self-discovery as well.
The book is an inter-racial and inter-gender odyssey, shuttling back and forth between serene Ohio and a multi-faceted Manhattan, between the 1950s and the present, between the author's own family and J.C.'s. One step forward - J.C. finds an apartment and buys a car - is invariably and dishearteningly followed by (at least) two steps back - J.C. again estranged from his children, whom he hasn't seen in decades. Gradually, the dark secrets, the black holes at the core of the J.C. galaxy of contradictory behaviors and traits - emerge. As they unfold, this riveting book rivals any thriller I have read. It is also an excellent primer to the inner world of the narcissistic psychopath. A must!
Sam Vaknin, author, "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
Real Stories, Untold Truths
Real Stories, Untold Truths reads like a detective novel. Though it is introspective, it is also fast-paced, detailed, and full of mystery. I was eager to turn the pages, to learn what would happen to J.C., the author's homeless friend. How did a seventy-something-year-old, former math teacher and father, end up homeless in New York City? Why was it sometimes hard for him to accept help when it arrived?
After reading the first book in this series, Have a Great One!, in 2001, I wondered if it would be difficult for me to get back inside the story since several years had passed. The transition felt effortless. It's not easy for an author to involve a reader so quickly. Laurie Anthony holds degrees in special education and social work, yet she also has a gift for storytelling. Her style is straightforward. Tightly packed scenes, unique characters, detailed settings, and seamless dialogue reeled me in.
In all friendships, the more you learn each other's secrets, the more you become aware that you can never fully understand another human being. In any meaningful relationship, our values and preconceptions are tested and that's how we grow as individuals. We humans are multi-faceted--a product of our genes, our environment, and our choices. These complexities are addressed in the book so well, I wish more background had been given about the racial strife J.C. must have faced living in the south before The Civil Rights Movement. Why do some people, like J.C.'s brother thrive after enduring great hardships, and others, like J.C., make so many unhealthy decisions? I wonder if that could be another volume in the making--the history of these two men.
The author approaches many sensitive issues with an open mind. Homelessness, mental illness, poverty, the sexual tension that may happen between men and women who become friends. She tells us how it feels to be manipulated, what it's like trying to trust someone who can be selfish, withholding, who sometimes suffers from distorted thinking and is often verbally abusive. The author's sense of self is plumbed each time a new revelation about her friend, J.C., occurs. She shares her journal with us, the letters she writes to him and sometimes does not send. We feel her angst, her hope, her disappointments and her headaches.
Though Laurie Anthony has returned to Ohio, where she teaches the fifth grade, she still visits J.C. in New York not only to work on the book, but to help him in times of need. She's strolled down the streets of Harlem, visited J.C.'s new living quarters, acted as a go-between with him and his relatives, lawyers, and old friends. She has kept in touch with his family and has journeyed to his home town.
I admire the author's tenacity, and also her inner strength. It is a challenge to nurture such a difficult friendship. Many of us would lose our patience after one of J.C.'s insults. On the other hand, I feel J.C. is to be commended for opening up to a woman who came from such a different world than he did. It isn't easy confiding in someone, let alone telling them your past mistakes. As a writer, I'm in awe of the amount of research and time these two books must have taken to complete in the midst of so many setbacks and frustrations. It's fun to imagine them marketing their book together after so many ups and downs in their relationship.
I did not approach either of these books as a technical treatise on the homeless. To me, it is an example of journaling at its best. This book in particular was not only about finding the meaning of compassion and friendship, but also about our accountability to ourselves and to each other, and knowing when to set boundaries. When does helping become enabling? How long can we continue to help someone in need if they do not try to help themselves? The book was about asking all the big questions: who, when, what, where, how, and why? And being OK with the realization that there are rarely easy answers to all of those questions. True stories do not always have the happiest or the clearest of endings.
If you are looking for a quick fix to societal problems, pat remedies for the human condition, a to-do list of "how to stop being that way" you won't find those here. This is a woman's honest, troubled account of trying to understand a complicated problem that needs to be addressed, while struggling with her own confusion in the process. She is on a path of rediscovering what friendship means to her. She meets, then befriends one man and tells his story in an effort to help him out of a life-threatening situation: living without a roof over his head. She does not look the other way, or adapt a holier than thou attitude toward J.C.. You witness her unhappiness over many of J.C.'s choices and behaviours, but you never feel she will abandon the friendship once the book is done.
I recommend both books to educators and readers. It's bound to provoke many questions and could lead to discussions on drug abuse, homelessness, racism, mental health, and what it means to be a friend.
Copyright (c) by Catherine Tudor (One Woman's Writing Retreat) http://www.prairieden.com/reviews/anthony_real.html
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Reader Reviews for "Real Stories, Untold Truths"
|Reviewed by Franz Kessler
Every serious approach to investigate human existence represents an act of tremendous courage and strength. Any experience, good or bad, is a crystallisation of truth. Your empathy completes the picture.