Friday, 25 November 2011

The most memorable memoir I've read

Photo: Ian Morgan Cron
Photo credit: Thomas Nelson Publishers

I’ve found some of the Christian books I’ve read a bit cringey. Sometimes the subject matter is good but the writing style is poor or the super-spiritual authors are too far removed from my own experiences to be useful. Some have made me feel like I’m swimming through treacle, which sounds delightful but in practice is pretty hard work (and extremely messy).

So when I was sent Ian Morgan Cron’s book Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was described as a “memoir of sorts”, which didn’t fill me with hope as I’d never even heard of him. But right from the opening chapter I was drawn in. The writing style was modern, captivating and extremely evocative. In fact, the more I read the more I enjoyed it. 

One warning I’d give you is that this memoir should not be read anywhere you might encounter strangers. You will laugh out loud. The story about the “angel”, for example, perfectly captures his fearful, childish imagination. I laughed until my abs hurt.

That’s not to say it’s an entirely comfortable read. It’s likely your laughter will be blended with tears at times (unless you have a heart of stone). However, it’s the lightness of the amusing anecdotes juxtaposed with the painful memories that brings the book to life.

Ian shares tales from his childhood as though they happened yesterday and the descriptions are so vivid you feel as though you have lived through them with him, both the good and the bad; that you know him intimately despite having only met him in the world of print.

It’s his willingness to bring to life the sadness, rejection and humiliation with as much clarity as the more recent, delicious memories of time spent his own children that give the book a rounded, true-to-life feel.

“Every life contains episodes we’d rather not remember, no less commit to paper for others to read, but this is what the memoirist must do or their work will ring false,” explains Ian. “Besides, would you trust a memoir that didn’t include painful or embarrassing moments? Would it even be worth reading?” 

The book reveals deep flaws in the relationship between Ian and his father; however there were also some positives to be drawn. His father was a voracious reader who loved beautiful prose. He gave Ian a Merriam Webster dictionary as a going away gift when he left for college, writing in it: “Words—learn to love them”. Ian says: “It’s spooky that he wrote that not knowing I would one day become a writer; or did he know all along? (Play spooky music here!)”

This relationship also made him think seriously about his own role as a father. He has worked extremely hard to ensure his children are loved, encouraged and protected – the evidence of this leaps out of every sentence he writes about his three kids, as well as his ever-patient wife Anne.

“The relationship I have with my children couldn’t be more different than the one I had with my father,” he comments. “For example, I am not afraid to tell my children that I’m sorry when I’ve hurt them or wronged them somehow. My father never would have dreamt of apologising to his children.

“I’m also very physical with my children. I hug them as often as I can. I think that’s terribly important for dads to do.”

Ian became a Christian as a result of hanging out with a bunch of young believers who invested time, effort and money in him – probably developing a few grey hairs in the process. He wasn’t an easy nut to crack; like most of us before we met with God he had “issues”.

But the dedication of these young Christians who accepted him just as he was and were genuinely concerned about him really touched his heart. Having experienced this unconditional friendship, his advice is to treat all people as precious human beings, whatever their backgrounds and beliefs.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me is available across the UK and is worth every penny. His blog is also a great read.

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment