Yolanda King Stephen is a Georgia native and former flight attendant. She holds her Bachelor’s in Communication Arts from Georgia Southern University and will soon graduate with her MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Yolanda has penned her first book an autobiography, entitled, The Upside of the Down Low, A Pastor’s Wife’s Memoir.
B2M presents our exclusive interview with Yolanda King Stephen.
B2M: Welcome to Books2Mention Magazine.
Please tell our readers about your new book, The Upside of the Down Low, a Pastor’s Wife’s Memoir.
YOLANDA: The Upside of the Down Low, a Pastor's Wife's Memoir is an autobiography following the life of a southern Baptist pastor’s wife, Yolanda Jacksyn. Turmoil and disorder ensue as she quickly finds out her affluent, positioned husband, Pastor Edgar Otis Jacksyn, III (PJ) is plagiarizing life in the pulpit. His parishioners love his candid, real-life preaching style and community leaders applaud his fresh ideas.
But at home PJ squanders money, lies about deadly health issues, and preys on unsuspecting young men. PJ’s trickery and deceitful ways finally walk through his front door and confronts Yolanda - in the form of a teenage boy PJ has been having sex with since the beginning of their marriage.
Not willing to deal with the outcome of his sordid past or succumb to the street or court summons, PJ chooses to end his own life where it began: on the church ground.
The Upside takes a vivid look at speculations surrounding church folk while shedding light on topics long considered taboo in communities across the country; depression, infidelity, and homosexuality.
B2M: Was it difficult to be open about your personal story?
YOLANDA: My life was already an open book, but I wasn’t the author. The scandal surrounding my husband’s life and death was gossip for the streets – inside and outside of the church.
The decision to pen The Upside did not come easily. I had to be willing to expose my marriage, my late husband, and myself. This memoir is a candid testament to how life can bring you down if you let it, but it's also a testimony to how God can build you back up if you let Him.
Through the chaos and confusion I realized that it wasn't about me and it wasn't about him. It's about sharing with people who may be plagued with the 'down lows' in their life; letting them know that God is real and nothing is too big for Him. I knew being honest about my personal journey would be a gateway for healing for me. I had so much bottled within and the only way it could legibly and peacefully come out is through my writing. I’m thankful that my writing has been able to help me and others that may be going through a trying time in their life. It is a sincere testament that God can bring us through any situation if we just be still and let Him do it.
B2M: How difficult was it for your family to handle your husband’s death?
YOLANDA: Death is difficult for most to deal with. A self-death is even more perplexing because there is no one to blame -- it's not a car accident, a health matter, or another person. It's like a big game of Clue. Suicide is treated like a homicide and is fully investigated; therefore, it was easy for me to feel at fault even though it wasn't my fault.
I was a widow at 33, my husband killed by his own hands, and I not only had the police investigation to contend with but also relatives who placed blame on me because they needed someone else to blame. My immediate family did not do that. They have been extremely supportive from the beginning; shielding me from what others said and sharing their shoulder for a deep cry when needed. Unfortunately, not all were that way and this period of my life has helped me to weed out those taking up negative space in me and my children’s lives.
B2M: How difficult was it for your family to handle your decision to write The Upside?
YOLANDA: My family is extremely supportive of my writing and speaking endeavors. I moved my mother in with me after my husband’s death and she has been the earthly pillar of support. My sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and friends have piled on unwavering support. My daughter is excited about Mommy being an author and my son is getting bigger by the day.
B2M: How did discovering the Pastor’s other life affect the church?
YOLANDA: The timeline of discovery of his closeted lifestyle until his suicide was so close together that it was difficult to separate one from the other. They were essentially parasites of each other. You couldn’t talk about one incident without discussing the other. There was disappointment, sadness, grief, and disbelief. The evening before PJ’s death, his bible study topic was on church unity. The next morning he was gone. The church family saw it as a time to pull together and pray together without any added extras because what we were suffering through was surely enough.
B2M: Were there any signs early on in the relationship that you perhaps overlooked?
YOLANDA: The Upside chapter titles are titles of PJ’s sermons that he actually preached from the pulpit.
The first one is entitled ‘You’ve Got to Start From the Beginning’ and it chronicles the first time we met. It then goes on to a chapter called ‘Watch the Signs.’ This chapter begins to chronicle the first cracks in our marriage with the symbol of water coming through the cracks of the home. The memoir’s last chapter is ‘God Writes the Final Chapter.’ Here, he preached about God’s prophet becoming depressed and wanting to commit suicide.
I’m the type of person that loves hard and asks questions after things don’t add up. There were signs of every little thing going on to create the tragedy that ensued, but I didn’t piece it together until it was too late. I wrote about one incident that occurred in the kitchen when I came home for a surprise lunch date. I ended up the one surprised.
B2M: What do you attribute to helping you through this challenging ordeal?
YOLANDA: My faith.
B2M: Has the revelation about your husband’s down low lifestyle altered your willingness to marry again?
YOLANDA: It’s funny because I was the one resisting marriage in the beginning of our relationship. PJ wore me down with his charismatic character and seemingly honest demeanor. But to live a down low lifestyle is to live a lie. The lies carried over into our finances, into our bedroom, and unto death did us part. I don’t want to accept another man into my life carrying baggage from the previous one. To date or marry again is to step over the boundaries and trust wholeheartedly. God is still working with me on that! I’m not saying I won’t, but right now I am focused on my family, our healing, and my continuous journey UP.
B2M: Having gone through this situation, has it made you a stronger person?
YOLANDA: As a young girl I didn’t understand some of the sayings my grandparents mumbled around the house. As I have gotten older and lived a little I now grasp the meaning to some of those sayings that now bring new meaning. One that sticks out the most is ‘God doesn’t put more on us than we can bare’. This certainly rings so true to me. God entrusted me to go through this storm and he prepared me for it so whether I had a raincoat, an umbrella, some rain boots, or nothing at all, I came out on the other side stronger, wiser, and better.
B2M: What would you like to say to women who find themselves in similar circumstances?
YOLANDA: If you feel your mate is cheating on you with someone of the same sex then ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be prepared for any type of answer. Don’t be accusatory and don’t get into a physical altercation. In addition, don’t talk yourself into what you want to hear – listen to him and listen to what he says. Look at how he acts. In every instance, be prepared to make a decision that is right for you and your family before broaching the subject.
B2M: Can we look forward to reading more books by you in the future?
YOLANDA: Yes. I am toying with a sequel but haven’t landed on it quite yet. Whatever the next writing venture is it will be about overcoming, healing, and God’s love.
B2M: Yolanda thanks for sharing your story with the world. Your willingness to be so open about your ordeal will hopefully assist others in similar circumstances.
We look forward to hearing more from you.
Thanks for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Please be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
You are welcome to visit the website of Yolanda King Stephen at www.UpsideBook.com.
The Upside of the Down Low, a Pastor's Wife's Memoir