Friday, November 27, 2009

A Journal For Jordan-- Review, Author Interview

A Journal for Jordan
A Story of Love and Honor
Random House
Written by
Dana Canedy
Available in Hardcover and Paperback

In 2005, First Sergeant Charles Monroe King began to write what would become a two-hundred-page journal for his son in case he did not make it home from the war in Iraq. Charles King, forty-eight, was killed on October 14, 2006, when an improvised explosive device detonated under his Humvee on an isolated road near Baghdad. His son, Jordan, was seven months old.

A Journal for Jordan is a mother’s letter to her son–fierce in its honesty–about the father he lost before he could even speak. It is also a father’s advice and prayers for the son he will never know.

  • He finished the journal two months before his death while home on a two-week leave, so intoxicated with love for his infant son that he barely slept.

Finally, this is the story of Dana and Charles together–two seemingly mismatched souls who loved each other deeply. She was a Pulitzer Prize—winning editor for the New York Times who struggled with her weight. He was a decorated military officer with a sculpted body who got his news from television. She was impatient, brash, and cynical about love. He was excruciatingly shy and stubborn, and put his military service before anything else. In these pages, we relive with Dana the slow unfolding of their love, their decision to become a family, the chilling news that Charles has been deployed to Iraq, and the birth of their son.

  • In perhaps the most wrenching chapter in the book, Dana recounts her search for answers about Charles’s death. Unsatisfied with the army’s official version of what happened and determined to uncover the truth, she pored over summaries of battalion operations reports and drew on her well-honed reporting skills to interview the men who were with Charles on his last convoy, his commanding officers, and other key individuals. In the end, she arrived at an account of Charles’s death–and his last days in his battalion–that was more difficult to face than the story she had been told, but that affirmed the decency and courage of this warrior and father.

    A Journal for Jordan is a tender introduction, a loving good-bye, a reporter’s inquiry into her soldier’s life, and a heartrending reminder of the human cost of war.

"Full of wonderful treasures offered by a unique and spirited father...It is written with seren grace: part memoir, part love story, all heart."James McBride, author of THE COLOR OF WATER

My Thoughts:

What impresses me about this book is the candor of the author, about herself and her man. Her determination to create a clear picture of the man she loved, and their relationship, so her son would have a way to know him. When we lose someone so early, and in such a way, it’s all too easy to tag him as a hero, and sanitize his life. Make him larger than life; even posthumously award him sainthood, in our hearts and minds. Dana does not.

What emerges from these pages captures the essence of Charles King. He is not just a soldier or the man she loved. He was multifaceted and more complex. Charles was stubborn, had procrastination down to an art, a need for things to be done just so. I see a man who could brood and worry. I meet an imposing man with a strong sense of duty and honor, which came above all else in his life. I can see his shyness, his loving heart, and sense of humor, his dedication to doing what was right, regardless of what others thought of those decisions. The strong faith in God that guided him in his life. The deep love he had for his family.

Through Dana’s eyes I met the sexy, sensual man, her lover. I met the warrior, tough and strong, highly decorated, intensely loyal and deeply caring for the men placed in his care. I saw this fierce warrior, sculpted in body and incredibly strong hold his tiny child with such tenderness and love. He was a man who took his role as a father seriously, providing for his children. He took the time during the lonely nights in Iraq to give guidance and direction for his son through a journal while hoping it would never be necessary for his son to see it—because he wanted to be there in person to guide him and watch him grow.

Charles was so real to me, even knowing he died, my heart hurt for Dana when I read the part where she was told. Tears came to my eyes more than once during this book, but so did laughter. Only a good writer can take someone totally unknown to you and paint such a clear picture of him or her it touches your heart.

Grief is a funny thing. I’ve lost people very dear to me both family and friends everyone grieves differently. I have to make sense of it to heal to get past the anguish. Dana did the same. But what made an impact on me was the generosity of Dana Canedy. She shared the man she loved with us and with her son. She’s reached out to others who have suffered and are still suffering.

I loved the book. It’s well written and easy to read. Journal has it sad parts, true, but really it’s the story of family.

  • And the joy of love.

* * *
I was curious, after I read the book. I had the chance to talk with Dana and ask her some questions.

Dana, tell us a little bit about you. I know you work for the New York Times as an editor. What’s your typical day like? What kind of stories do you pursue?

  • Well, I don’t really have a typical day. I usually wake up – excruciatingly early -- to Jordan asking me his daily morning questions, such as; how do planes fly or what do butterflies eat or why is ice cream cold. Once I get him off to pre-school and head to the Times, I might be involved in an employee’s career development, sitting in on story planning meetings or meeting with senior management to discuss issues related to anything from the operation of our Baghdad bureau to how we are covering the Obama administration.

What made you decide on making Charles’ journal a book for all, not just something strictly for Jordan?

  • I was so proud of what Charles wrote in the journal that I wanted to honor him by making it public so that the world would know what an extraordinary man he was. Also, I wanted Jordan to have a full picture of his father some day. I was also aware that many people have never known a military family that has lost a soldier, and so I thought that our story would personalize the war for readers. Then too, I simply needed something to do with my grief.
I know you do motivational speaking to servicemen and their families. How has this journal (and speaking) helped you in your healing process and what does it give others dealing with the same thing?

  • One of the things I discovered after Charles died is that even in tragedy there are blessings. Getting to know so many amazing military families, who are living through the same grief that we are, has been one of the blessings for me. If something I have written or said helps someone else cope with their loss, then I am tremendously honored by that. Many military families have actually thanked me for giving them a voice by sharing the story of losing my solider.
Any stories you’d like to share?

  • I will never forget one woman sobbing in my arms at an event, saying she wanted her baby back. He was 19 and died just a year out of high school. I saw her the next day and she said that she had started reading my book and that it was helping her to cope with her loss. All I can say to that is, “Thank You, God!”
The thing that impressed me about the book was your candor. There’s love behind the words but you didn’t try to make Charles into a saint. It seemed to me you were trying to capture the essence of the total man he was—the good, bad, and ugly. Grief has a way of idealizing the one we lost. What did you do to keep perspective?

  • I think the fact that I am a journalist helped me to keep perspective. This is my life I was writing about, but it is also a “story” and in that regard I tried to apply the same standards of honesty and fairness that I do to writing news stories. In short, my professional training and ethics guided me. I was also mindful that the ultimate reader would someday be my son – so the book had to be authentic and real.

Tell us a bit about Jordan. I’ve seen pictures. He seems to have a sunny smile that melts your heart.

  • Oh my goodness!!!! He is my Angel. That little boy has me wrapped around his finger, and he knows it. But he is an easy child, well mannered and kind and precocious but also playful and mischievous. Just the other day, he said “Mommy, you have such a beautiful heart.” I could not believe it. Charles used to say that I would see both of us in him, and I truly do. Sometimes he looks just like his dad, other times I see me in him. He is sensitive and a gentleman, just like his dad was, but he is outgoing and had a good sense of humor, like me.

Is there anything he does that makes you say, ‘oh my God, you’re just like your daddy’?

  • Jordan walks like his dad, but is more his spirit that reminds me of Charles. He is a natural caretaker, which Charles also was to a fault. Jordan’s teachers in pre-school tell me he takes care of everyone in class, and he does that with me at home too. He will ask if I’m tired, or if I want a bite of his food or if I need a hug. One time, we were on our way to the airport and I was lugging a bag down the hall and Jordan grabbed it and wanted to do it himself. I asked if he needed help and he said, “no Mommy, it’s heavy.” Mind you, he is only 3.
How has he handled all the publicity around this journal?

  • He has taken it pretty well. I was worried that I was exposing him to too much. Then one evening as we were settling into bed in a hotel after I had given a speech, he said, “Mommy, you talked really good to the people.” I couldn’t believe it. He is always surprising me with the way he thinks and feels.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
  • Honestly, the hardest part was doing the research about how Charles died and reconstructing his final day. I literally vomited.
After reading the account, I can understand why.

What was your favorite part?

  • I loved recalling and writing about the two weeks Jordan and Charles had together. I will always treasure that time, and I hope readers will treasure that part of the book.

Any future plans for another book?

  • Yes, I may do a sequel because so many people have asked me to. I also may write a children’s version. This book has changed my life in ways I never expected, and it has made me feel like I definitely have more to say.
Thank you, Dana, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit with us today and share a bit about your family and your book.
  • Thank you for honoring me by allowing me to be a part of your blog. I am humbled and grateful.


DANA CANEDY is a senior editor at the New York Times, where she has been a journalist for twelve years. In 2001, she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for "How Race Is Lived in America," a series on race relations in the United States.

Denzel Washington will produce and possibly star in a film “Journal for Jordan,” based on the journal. Escape Artists at Columbia Pictures acquired the film rights.

Raised near Fort Knox, she lives in New York City with her son, Jordan.

(Pictures Courtesy Dana Canedy, Book Blurb courtesy of Random House)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Thankful

~Sia McKye~

~Life doesn't come tied with a bow, but it's still a gift~

It’s that time of the year when we gather together as family and friends and give thanks for the blessings we have in our life. For some, that’s what this meal means and for others it’s a time when most are off work and a perfect time for family and friends to gather.

It’s the start of the winter holidays and one of the biggest shopping days of the year is the day after Thanksgiving. A ritual in some families I know. The men sit around and watch football and the women march off to the stores like Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone, yelling Charge!

It’s called Black Friday and the time of year merchants are enticing shoppers to the stores to begin the Christmas holiday shopping. Merchants look at it as a way of getting out of the red and show a profit for the quarter. Doesn’t always happen but they certainly want a ‘black’ Friday and profit. Retailers throughout the country heavily promote sales. Stores are often decorated for the Christmas season weeks beforehand and retailers open very early to offer door buster deals, loss leaders and other incentives to draw people to their shops. To them, Black Friday is a blessing.

Those that work Black Friday find it’s a time when insanity reigns. Long work day and hordes of rude people swarming to get to the sales items before someone else grabs it, even if it means trampling over whoever is in front of you ( as we’ve seen in the headlines the past few years). Store employees, while exhausted at the end of the day, count it a blessing they have a job, when so many don’t.

For those who love to shop, while chaotic, love the challenge and finding the deals. Many have lists and have faithfully studied the Ads and know just where they’re going and what they’re getting. They come home tired but happy they’ve gotten the main part of their holiday shopping done and saved money.
For them that is a blessing.

Is this season merely commercial? Are possessions and getting more the only part of this season?

Traditionally, in many of the early colonies in the United States, it was a time to give thanks to God for the plentiful harvest that would take the settlers through the winter. It was sharing the abundance of that harvest in a community meal. You might say it was one of the first ‘potluck’ dinners held on these shores. Everyone brought something to contribute to the feast. Understandably, it began as a religious holiday, although today it’s lost most of the religious aspects and become a secular holiday. It wasn’t until 1941 it became a Federal holiday.

Early times in this country were rough and survival was a blessing. If there was a bad harvest, it meant winter rationing of the food and worse case scenario was starvation. There were no stores or markets to save the day because the few in existence depended upon the harvest as well. But the land was rich, game plentiful. The settlers learned to farm those things that would grow well here. European methods didn’t always work, nor did the usual fare they were used to growing. They learned from the Native Americans how to grow corn, squash, and many newer vegetables. The first feasts didn’t have huge golden turkeys, candied yams, fluffy dinner rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, or cranberries and pumpkin pie. Instead the first feasts included: duck, geese, some wild turkey, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and many vegetables. Flour was almost non-existent, but they did have cornmeal. They also had little or no sugar, but there was wild honey, fruits and other sweet produce.

The feast was designed to draw families and the community together by sharing what they had in a community meal. They had many losses: of life, livestock, homes, and livelihood. But they gave thanks for those that did survive and the things they did have. They shared laughter and love to overcome the tragedies.

Today, for many families, this is a time to be thankful for food on the table, family around them. It’s a time of renewing family bonds, remembering those who have passed, rejoicing over the new ones born. Breaking bread together is one of the oldest rituals practiced by people.

Our family dinner is usually potluck and we coordinate with everyone on the menu and everyone brings something. The host or hostess, cooks the turkey and ham. With such a large group and the weather usually good, we tend to set up the food in Mama's garage on serving tables and carry it outside to eat at tables set up outside on the lawn.

I’m thankful for having my family and good friends around me. Coming together helps to overcome the year’s tragedies: loss of life, loss of livelihood, and some tough economic times. This year will be rough on my family, as we’ve lost our younger brother and my mother, her son. I'm thankful for the time we had with him. Good times. We come together to remind ourselves we are alive and we do have plenty to share. It’s a time to laugh over tales of the past and present, to lift a glass to those no longer with us, and share the ‘do you remember when…’?

At the core, we’re still a family. We have new ones coming in, either by marriage, or birth. We have plenty of love to go around. We focus on what we have, what remains, not on who or what we don’t have. Looking at the positives. My mother always told us that contentment comes from being thankful for what we have. Being thankful for the people we have in our lives. "Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need." She says, and I believe her, this is how we find happiness. Contentment with what we have and family and friends to share it with. When I look at it that way, I realize there is so much in my life for which to be thankful.
  • What are your blessings? What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Lucky—Review

~Sia McKye~

By: Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Release: December 2009



Single mom Julie Donavan is looking for a place to start over. As soon as she meets the absolutely infuriating, oh-so-sexy cowboy next door things quickly go from bad to worse...


Single dad "Lucky Griffin" Luckadeau thinks his new neighbor is scheming to steal his ranch out from under him to benefit her own daughter. But when his daughter, Lizzy, decides she wants the new little girl who lives on the feuding property to be her friend, or better yet her sister, the sparks fly.

These two stubborn hotheads, who irritate each other beyond endurance, refuse to admit that it's fate that brought them together. And running from the inevitable is only going to bring a double dose of misery…

"Chalk up another great story by Carolyn Brown! I was immersed…right from the very first page."
Roundtable Reviews

My Thoughts:

There are authors who write good stories and build good characters. Carolyn Brown writes an excellent story and creates characters so alive you think you could sit down and chat with them. Her dialog is snappy with liberal use of humor and Texas speak. Definitely a must read book.

She captured my interest the first page. I couldn't help but laugh when I read Julie's thoughts about Griff and her reactions. And boy howdy, sparks do fly between these two.

I absolutely adore the ladies of the Lackadeau family. Their tart sense of humor and way of looking at things. A strong bunch of ladies with strong opinions but Julie can more than handle them; she sets them back on their butts. With out giving away spoilers, there is a favorite scene (actually one of several I loved) in the book, where Griff's sister has made some assumptions and Julie calls her on it. Then promises to wipe the yard with her. Julie, being a schoolteacher, uses the techniques one uses with little kids, you know, three occurrences and you're in trouble? Through out the book you'll see Julie put up one finger, or two...cracks me up.

"You like my sister?" Julie was amazed.

"Of course. We have a lot in common. She's not trying to take my baby brother for a cheap ride to the altar." Melinda said.

Julie held up two fingers.

"I'm glad I'm going home. I've had to grow three new tongues just to keep from biting mine off to keep you off my back..."

Julie giggled...

There's a lot of good bantering between all the characters and some of the situations Carolyn puts her characters into are real and hilarious.

For sure the course of true love doesn't run true. Both Griff and Julie have some real issues to settle, but you sigh and wish for more when you reach the happily-ever-after and the end.

I have to admit, I've taken a real liking to Alvera, I wonder if she could give me lessons on handling the Clarice's of the world, lol!

Carolyn Brown is firmly on my authors to read list! She writes wonderful contemporary Romances.

  • Getting Lucky is the last book of Carolyn's Lucky series. The first, which I haven't read yet, but I will, is Lucky In Love, the second is One Lucky Cowboy, and this one, Getting Lucky.

  • All three stories center around three cousins: Beau, Slade and Griffin. They are all hot-headed, sexy-as-hell ranchers who meet their matches in Milli, Jane and Julie, sassy southern women.

Carolyn says, "...they are inspired by every cowboy in Texas and every woman who knows her mind and stands up for her rights."

  • Carolyn is working on another series for Sourcebooks. The Honky Tonk Series, a four book series, will debut with I Love This Bar in June 2010, followed by Hell Yeah, My Give a Damn’s Busted, and Honky Tonk Christmas. Each book is set in the Honky Tonk, an old beer joint in Mingus, Texas (Population 238) and is filled with quirky characters, hunky cowboys and brassy bar maids.

Check out her website at

© Sia McKye 2009 all rights reserved