August Feature: “Unredacted”

Unredacted” is Jim Koury’s first literary endeavor. He is a seeker of personal truth. Through his book, his goal is to help others to overcome the stigma of their past and realize their own personal truths buried inside of themselves.

Unredacted” is a book about personal evolution into the person that is inherently buried deep inside us. It is also a stark and raw look at what people go through in the closet because of a society that is hell-bent on condemning and persecuting people for who they are, and for whom they love. By bringing these aspects of many individual’s hidden closeted life to light, it is the author’s hope that folks who read this book will have a better understanding of what one deals with in terms of their secret lives, and how they seek out sexual gratification, companionship, and just a support network within which to function, most times, in a non-accepting environment. If it can help someone understand and realize what life is like for someone else outside of their tidy, straight existences, and, as a result, look upon those who are different with a more empathetic perspective, then the book has served its purpose.

More importantly, this book is for those countless others who have experienced a lot of the same things detailed in “Unredacted,” and the associated emotional turmoil. If you can personally relate to what is in the book, then it is the author’s sincere hope that you can muster the courage to cast off your hidden past, and the fear that someone may find out about things you did. Thus helping you move forward with your life. If that is the result, it is worth every consequence of not remaining silent and embracing and evolving into all that is YOU!

Author, Jim Koury,  discusses below “Unredacted” and answers some commonly asked questions since the book’s debut in June:

I was chatting with an acquaintance of mine about my first book entitled, “Unredacted.” I was telling him about some of the comments and questions I was getting in response to its release in June. He thought it would be a great idea if I took some space in Diversity Rules Magazine to promote the book and actually answer some of the questions as well as address some of the comments I have been receiving.

I was rather hesitant at first since I thought it might look self-promoting and egotistical to feature my own book on the cover. Then I thought about it, and said, “Why the hell not? It is my first book and a huge accomplishment for me. If I don’t promote my book and myself, who is going to?!” So, here we are, with my book as the feature in the August issue.

So, let me address some of the questions I have gotten over the past couple of months since its release.

Why did you write the book?

Writing a book has always been an aspiration of mine. It is something that I have always wanted to do, but the effort involved in writing one always seemed so daunting, and scary, actually. Folks would tell me, “Just write and then you’ll be surprised about how easy it will flow.” Well, they were right! After I penned out an outline of what I wanted to do, I just started writing down my thoughts and feelings, and it actually became quite an easy endeavor to undertake.

I actually started writing my book three years ago, with starts and stops, and frustration abounded. I would get preoccupied with other things and put the book on hold. However, in February of this year, I was sitting at the computer looking at what I had written, and decided it was time to finish it. I focused and wrote, edited and rewrote until I had a draft printed out and ready to start to mold into a final product. And voila, it was done and loaded up on Amazon. I sat back and just said, “Holy fuck, it’s done!”

What is the main focus of “Unredacted?”

“Unredacted” is about personal evolution, and embracing one’s past and not letting it have control over our lives. Many people deny their past and are ashamed and embarrassed at many of the things they did. Our past is who we are. It is what has made us the people we are today … good, bad or otherwise.

“Unredacted” is a celebration of my past and it is my hope that it instills in others a sense that they are simply humans on a journey in life — that they should not be ashamed of the experiences they have lived. Those experiences are part of one’s life’s tapestry. Denying parts of that tapestry will ultimately betray the denier. They potentially will live in fear of their past and become beholden to those that would seek to do harm to them because of it.
Those that do harm, in all likelihood, are the very same people that hide behind their facade of indignant shame and cast judgment on others. The main objective of this book is a message to not let that happen. Live your truth.

We all have skeletons in our closet that shake and rattle. They remind us that they are there periodically, and create fear within us, many times, that others may find out about the raw truth of those skeletons. “Unredacted” outs my skeletons and releases them to go haunt someone else!

What is the format of the book?

“Unredacted” contains five chapters – Innocence, Experimentation, Acceptance, Discovery, and Enlightenment. I see these topics as primary stages in our growth and evolution as human beings. Each chapter contains the main essay describing the concept, with short stories, in most chapters, based on my past experiences that highlight the concept.

Innocence describes that time before we become molded and shaped by the opinions of others. The stories relating to innocence are those which defined my childhood and epitomized that which was important to me and made me feel contented and happy.

Experimentation is that period after innocence where we begin to step out on our own. The stories explore those areas of my life that would ultimately shape my adult life.

Based on our experimentation, we enter periods of acceptance where we begin to come to grips with certain things about ourselves and the world around us. Acceptance denotes that which become solid foundations for our worldview and how we interact with those around us.

When we accept these truths, we begin our discovery of what is really important to us. Discovery establishes the foundations of life that guide us and do not really change all that much through the course of our lives.

Once these foundations have been laid, we embark on a path of enlightenment. EnlightenmenT basically is a realization through the pursuit of self-knowledge of what makes us content and happy. Often times we rediscover our contentment and happiness in our hidden past – in our period of innocence.

“Unredacted” is about empowerment. It was empowering to write the book since I cast off much of what was hidden deep inside myself. It was liberating to know that which I feared would become known, was no longer a threat to me. It is also empowering for those who read it, since it is my hope that by reading my book it will ignite the fire inside the reader to also cast off their demons, and become the person they were meant to be unfettered by an unnecessary fear of their past.

You were very brave to write about some of the experiences you had.

Yes, in a way I was very brave. I grappled with some of the stories for a very long time, and whether or not to divulge them to the world. What would people think? Would they think of me any differently because of what I am writing? My answers ultimately dictated that I write the stories, and not be afraid of any of the repercussions for doing so. I quite frankly did not care what people thought. Much of what I did and experienced were the very same things that countless other gay men like me were experiencing and many times, enduring in quiet desperation. It was important for me to have them know that they were not alone and that they were not weird, perverted, or any other characterization that those who judge others cast upon people they perceive as out of the mainstream or different than they are.

I wanted people to know what closeted gay people go through in a society that looks down upon them, many times, and subjugates them to second class status. It was important for me to let those who read “Unredacted” know about how gay people dealt with their queerness, where they went for socialization, and found empowerment from others like them, that straight people take for granted. I wanted readers to be able to say “fuck you world” just as I did when I wrote “Unredacted” and published it.

This book is grounded in my truth and life experiences. A person’s truth is what it is. We cannot deny our truth indefinitely. As those who have read “Unredactede” have found out, much of my truth is born from conflicts related to my sexual orientation and sex, generally, as it is the essence of who I am… good, bad or otherwise. Therefore, it naturally follows that many of the experiences relayed in the short stories are of a sexual nature since it had a huge impact on my evolution as the individual I have become and I have no doubt surely elicited a “holy fuck” reaction.

What is the most important thing you want people to take from reading “Unredacted?”

From the time we are born until the day we die, we experience life and all its wonders, along with its moments of heartache, grief, and disappointment. Throughout this thing called “life,” we try to find our place, oftentimes within the realm of what others think of us. Because we are immersed in a society in which we must interact with friends, family and distant acquaintances, we are constantly coming into contact with these influences of those around us.

I would say the main thing I would like to see folks take from reading my book is that one of the most difficult things to learn along our life’s path is how to discern, the best way we can, which influences are most beneficial to us in our own development as the individuals we are. Sometimes we completely discard these influences and forge our own paths guided by the intuitive forces that lay within us.

All of our life experiences shape our destiny from the innocence of our childhood to the point where we discover who we are, or who we think we are, through a process of enlightenment. By reading “Unredacted” I want readers to develop their own sense of who they are and stop relying on what others think of them or embracing other people’s vision of their truth. It is important that we all develop and embrace our own truth, and cast off that which is not.

What stories are the most meaningful to you or bring back the most vivid memories?

All the stories in “Unredacted” have special meaning to me or they wouldn’t have made it into the book. The topics of the stories I selected to write about were those moments in my life that had special meaning or had an impact in my life that consistently were carried through to the point where I  am now.

With that said, I would have to say that “A Grandmother’s Love” has very special meaning for me, as my grandmother was one of those rocks in my childhood, and when she died it left an irreparable void in my life that I still feel to this day.

However, being a much more enlightened person, and one who is much more aware of the spiritual influences in our lives, I know she is with me each and every day. That is comforting to me. But I do miss her physical manifestation so much in my life and I would love nothing more than to experience her human presence once more, albeit only for a brief moment.

The other stories that resonate very vividly with me are those related to my coming out, and the time before actually doing so. I forged many great friendships, some of which I still have to this day, in the rest areas and bathhouses that I have visited, and spent many hours at. It was the social environment and the bonds of similar experiences and trauma that forged us together that make my memories of those crazy times very special.

While not a question or comment asked by readers and friends, I want to impart some words of wisdom to those who have read the book and who have yet to read it.

It is my hope that by reading “Unredacted” it reinstills a sense of hope that your current state of affairs is not the end all – that you can break free from the influences of others and become your own person, linked to the power of the universe that surrounds you – which is YOU!

We must understand that our hidden past holds keys to our future and the happiness we seek. While we cannot return to the past and relive those moments of contentment and happiness, we certainly can rediscover that which contented us. By doing so we can reignite the passion we had for things long forgotten that instilled in us a sense of peace and apply that passion to our current lives in order to move forward toward our ultimate goal of freedom and reunification with the essence contained within us. This defines who we really are, and guides us to discern what is best for us, free from the influences of others in an unredacted fashion.

For those who have yet to read “Unredacted,” it is my hope that you decide to! It has something for everyone, and its purpose is to get people to think, and think for themselves, and take action that will empower the spirit within to move forward with living the life that was meant for them to live.

“Unredacted” can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle or Print format!


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