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Waltzing A Two-Step
Reckoning Family, Faith, and Self
Waltzing a Two-Step is the first-person account of a boy from the rural Midwest in the middle of the 20th Century. The author, Dan Juday, recounts life as a Catholic-school child amid a very conservative, Protestant Bible Belt. Born into a divided family heritage, he retraces the slow, arduous path from sharing group identity to creating a unique sense of self. He comes to see himself as an outsider at school, at work and, ultimately, among those with whom he is growing up. His inclinations are toward the traditional Catholic world-view, and he is enthralled with the architecture and rituals of the church in which he is reared. Its spiritual framework shapes his understanding of self well beyond his formative years. He shies away from the machismo that family and peers seem to expect of him, preferring instead the company of those few who offer warmth and nurturing. He is drawn to the local library; its books offer peace and escape, and his love of words and the pleasure of others’ stories sustain him.
He comes to suspect early on, and — much later — to accept, his being gay, and the paradoxes that life presents him in an enticing but unwelcoming world. As his country’s social discontents slowly penetrate his private world, he navigates the guardrails of a rigid moral education while responding to calls from his contemporaries to embrace an evolving understanding of morality, to confront a dawning sense of injustice and to engage in civil resistance. The story unfolds during the tumultuous era of the 1960s and 70s, with its heady rush of the Kennedy era, and the roiling disruptions and social unrest that follow assassinations and an escalating war in Vietnam. These confrontations are chronicled in the popular culture and music of the age.
His search for a fuller life takes him overseas. As a college student in Spain, he is confronted with an unsustainable situation: he proposes marriage to a French girl and spends time with her in their prospective future home in France. At the same time he begins an affair with a young man in Spain. This leads to a pivotal moment that forces self-awareness. He chronicles the folly of chasing lost happiness and the healing that comes from recognizing the inner strength of those around him.
The author recreates scenes from a distant past — small-towns that hum with self-sustaining earnestness, parish life in a more compliant era, cityscapes since buried under by unstoppable growth and the contemporary emphasis on efficiency. He writes with compassion and astute attention to the intimacies of family life. He ultimately finds what he has been looking for all along: himself.
This is a cautionary tale, told late in life, tinged with a bittersweet understanding of what should have been said earlier. It is a story that resonates today — in an equally unsettled time of social upheaval — for those searching for their own answers.
Dan Juday’s Story
Dan Juday is a retired film producer, publisher and armchair poet who lives with his dog Mercy in North Leitrim, Ireland.
He produced several award-winning documentaries with Journey Films for broadcast on PBS, ABC and other networks in the US and abroad. He directed the US publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and (then) Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. His poetry has been published in The Famer’s Journal and Force 10, and read for The Yeats Summer School.
Reviews for Waltzing a Two-Step
Review of Waltzing A Two-Step from Chanticleer Book Reviews.
“Born a few years after the second world war, Dan experiences a peaceful and happy childhood in rural Indiana, moving frequently before the family settles on a rural area of land named Springwood in Clinton County, Indiana. The Juday family were devout Catholics and enrolled Dan and his siblings in Catholic schools until the family moved to Springwood. Public school became the only option for the siblings. There Dan does his best to fit in but his status as a minority Catholic in a mostly protestant community in the 1950s brings its own challenges.
For Dan, his struggles don’t stop there.”
Review of Waltzing A Two-Step from OnlineBookClub.Org
“…I felt like I had found a kindred spirit in the author. The author’s writing style was simple, and his sentences flowed perfectly and allowed me to get the best of the author’s journey. The author explored the primary themes of self-acceptance and self-discovery deftly. I understood the author’s need to fit in; even though he knew he was attracted to men, he tried to maintain heterosexual relationships to please everyone else but himself.“