AAMBC Review: 5 Stars Mark Harris was unlucky in love until he met Jared Muse by chance one morning on his way to work. Since his last relationship ended in heartbreak, Mark had sworn off men, but there was something special about Jared that had him hooked at first sight. Their first official date, though unconventional, solidified the almost immediate bond they shared.
Just as fate would have it, as soon as Mark found happiness, Tony, the man who broke his heart, resurfaces to claim his stake in Mark’s life. Not wanting to move on with Jared without being sure that he was completely over Tony, and following the ill-advice of his best friend, Todd, Mark decides to date them both until he can make a decision.
When that decision backfires, everyone except Mark becomes fearful for his safety. That is, until his safety is compromised and now he must depend on his friends and family to take care of him and shelter him from any further harm.
While we follow Mark through the trials and tribulations of unrequited love, we also meet a cast of very colorful characters that add spice, revenge, betrayal, love, humor, homophobia and “down-low” homosexuality to the mix.
J’son M. Lee weaves a very captivating story about love and betrayal in Just Tryin’ To Be Loved. Just when you think things can’t get worst, he springs another surprise on you. The story flows effortlessly and is definitely a page-turner. It explores many explosive topics and gives us an open and honest look at the different stages of Black Homosexual Love, or lack thereof.
J’son will soon be releasing his follow-up novel, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, and I’m anxiously awaiting its debut. One thing is for certain, J’son has definitely found a fan in me!
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Talking Love and Acceptance In The Situation Room With J’son M. Lee
Michelle: You will be releasing ‘Til Death Do Us Part shortly. What is the book about?
J’son: ‘Til Death Do Us Part is the sequel to Just Tryin’ To Be Loved. This book, as are most of my works, is about love and healing. For those who read Just Tryin’ To Be Loved, you know that Mark endured a lot on his journey to love and acceptance. In fact, his journey almost cost him his life. ‘Til Death Do Us Part takes us further into his journey – which is far from over. It also will answer a lot of the readers’ questions regarding what makes people the way they are. Sometimes we judge people’s behaviors and actions and don’t understand their story. Knowing someone’s story is never an excuse for bad behavior, but it will certainly help put things into perspective.
Michelle: You wrote, produced and starred in your own one-man show titled, One Family’s AIDS, please tell us about the play.
J’son: One Family’s AIDS, told from four different perspectives, is the story of Gene Alexander McCoy – a young, educated African-American man who finds himself in a race for time to make peace with his family and with God upon being diagnosed with HIV. The play chronicles Gene’s life as he confronts such issues as HIV/AIDS, family, abandonment and homophobia. With the help of his over-bearing mother, a nurturing grandmother, and an uncle who doesn’t really feel comfortable talking about Gene’s sexuality or disease, we learn the complexities of love and relationships, the damaging results of fear and shame, and how the relentless quest for the truth ultimately leads us back to each other.
Michelle: What inspired you to create One Family’s AIDS, and will you continue to perform this particular production in the future?
J’son: This play was conceived in a drama class at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991. The instructor’s directive was that each student adapt, direct and present a one-man show on any subject. I felt it was important to depict issues that I felt passionately about. At age 16, I lost my favorite uncle to AIDS. By age 21, I had lost several close friends to this disease. One Family’s AIDS was my attempt to somehow honor the people whom I had loved and lost and obtain a better understanding of my own unique family dynamic.
My favorite instructor at UNC was Genna Rae McNeil. She was a historian, a writer, and a woman who cared for and believed in her students. She attended my performance of One Family’s AIDS. The next day she presented me with a beautiful card describing her feelings having seen my work. She wrote that the show was “…at once beautiful, tragic, powerful, vulnerability-creating and life/love-affirming…obviously touched by the Divine in its conception.” I have held on to this card since 1991.
Author Antwone Fisher said, “…After suffering and overcoming through lessons and loss, were we all destined to be mere dust in the wind? Or was there more? Was there a way to share what you’ve learned, a form in which to pass it on to others for them to use, from which to benefit and perhaps avoid your pain? Because, as far as I was concerned, the failure to find that form was to miss the boat entirely…” As a firm believer in “overcoming through lessons and loss”, 2001 was exactly the right time. It was a year of awakening, healing, loss and love. In this, I found the words for my own One Family’s AIDS.
The play was recently featured at the We are 1 Conference in Durham, NC. I will continue to travel with this production spreading its messages.
Michelle: How did you become a part of the Foresight Publishing, LLC family and how did the collaboration with Ondrea L. Davis on the award-winning novel, How Could My Husband Be GAY?, come about?
J’son: First of all, let me say that I love my Foresight family. My business partners are sales guru, TJ Adams, and award-winning author, Ondrea L. Davis. TJ, whom I had a previous business relationship with, approached me about penning Ondrea’s story after he learned I was a published author. He set up a meeting and we all shared our expectations. Ondrea read some of my writings and felt that my style could bring depth to her already powerful true life story. I believe we allotted 1.5 years to complete the project, but finished it in six months – a testament to the power of a great team. I enjoyed assisting her in finding her voice and continue to be in awe of her talent and resilience.
Having worked with TJ and Ondrea on this project, it was a no-brainer that we needed to capitalize on our individual and collective talents. Through this collaboration Foresight was established.
Michelle: With such an explosive topic as “down-low” homosexuality, what has been the overall response to that novel?
J’son: The response at times has been overwhelming. While I think most people applaud Ondrea for having the courage to tell her story, we’ve also experienced some not so favorable responses. That’s to be expected with the perceived topic of homosexuality. I say perceived because the book really isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about deceit and how lies can potentially destroy people and families. I’m proud to have been a part of this project and I think it’s an important message.
Michelle: Your latest release, Just Tryin’ To Be Loved, deals with unrequited love and its consequences. What made you touch on this topic?
J’son: I chose to write this story to release a lot of the pain and disappointment I experienced in my own life as it relates to acceptance, love and relationships. There is a lot of similarity between me and the main character, Mark Harris. Mark’s views on love, and life in general, mirror my own. Despite everything that’s happened in my life, I am still a hopeless romantic. I hope this book makes people believe in themselves and believe in love.
Michelle: Without giving too much of the storyline away, was the fact that Mark Harris and Jared Muse were shown as successful, homosexual men, and Tony was characterized as an unproductive one intentional?
J’son: I think they were all successful in their own way. Mark was a human resources professional, Jared was a real estate executive and Tony found success (at least that was the picture he painted) as a real estate agent. Yes, the fact that they were all working professionals was intentional. I wanted to paint a story that depicts people (gay, or otherwise) working hard and making an honest living. Those are values that were instilled in me early on.
Michelle: There has been a surge in stories on Black Love, do you feel that Black Homosexual Love should be just as important to highlight? Why or why not?
J’son: I absolutely think it’s important to highlight black homosexual love. It’s apparent that street lit is the reigning genre right now. Even still, I can’t sacrifice my stories. I think it’s my job to “tell our stories” so I’ll keep highlighting our issues and plight.
Michelle: The majority of your work showcases important homosexual themes, is there a reason for this, or do you just want to educate the public?
J’son: Again, I think it’s my job to “tell our stories.” I hope my writing teaches tolerance. You don’t have to like what I do, nor do I have to like what you do…but at minimum, we should be able to respect each other’s differences. Homosexual themes aside, there’s a lot more to me. The surface has barely been scratched.
Michelle: In this day and age where there is so much more support and tolerance, do you think ones sexual orientation plays a part in their success? Why or why not?
J’son: I think that views on homosexuality have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. To have the President of the United States (a black man!) voice his support for same sex marriage is huge. Even with that milestone, we still have people afraid to be who they are out of fear – fear they won’t be accepted, fear they won’t be loved and fear that their success will be impacted. Something is wrong with that picture. We shouldn’t give people that much power. That’s why I have to keep writing.
Michelle: What advice, if any, do you have for upcoming authors who also write novels with controversial topics?
J’son: My advice would be quite simple: Controversy for some is a reality for many. Keep writing until that glass ceiling comes tumbling down.
Michelle: At the end of the day, once your last novel is written and you hang up your writer’s cap, what stamp do you wish to leave on the book industry? In short, what is your message?
J’son: I want to be known for well-written, thought-provoking work. I want my name to be synonymous with quality. My message; however, is not as simplistic. I don’t want children to grow up like I did – ashamed, isolated and feeling less than. I want people to read my books and see difference and respect it. I want them to see themselves and not feel alone. I want them to see truth and not run away from it. More than anything, I hope my work shows the universality of love. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. I hope my books help people see the bigger picture.
J’son M. Lee though born in Brooklyn, NY, is essentially a North Carolinian. He grew up in Lewiston-Woodville, NC, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earning a degree in Speech Communication with a concentration in Performance Studies. He is 42 years old and resides in Baltimore, Maryland. J’son works for a prominent real estate firm in our nation’s capital. He considers himself a literary activist who strives to write pieces that explore human realities (which have been traditionally avoided) in hopes of opening minds and bringing about healing.
J’son is the author of Just Tryin’ To Be Loved, Best Friends (short story), and recently co-authored the award-winning book, How could my husband be GAY? with Ondrea L. Davis. How could my husband be GAY? was the first title published under Foresight Publishing, LLC where J’son serves as CEO.