Arts and Culture

When Army 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King was deployed to Iraq, he kept a journal containing advice and messages of love for his infant son.

King was killed overseas in 2006, while serving. His life, and that of the woman who loved him, are the focus of a new major motion picture.

A Journal for Jordan” is a true story, based on the memoir of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Dana Canedy, who has deep roots in Kentucky. 

The Bluegrass State is also where she and King met. 

Asked to describe who King was, Canedy responded: “He was a Christian man, first of all, very kind, quiet, sweet, strong, and he loved me. He loved our country. And he loved our son. That’s who he was.”

The film will be released in theaters nationwide Christmas Day.

Below are excerpts from Canedy’s conversation with WFPL News, edited for brevity and clarity. 

Submitted photo

Dana Canedy

On where she got the idea to give her then-fiancé the journal:

“He’s a veteran; he’s been there before, but I was pregnant this time. So I thought, what if something happens to him? I would at least like for our baby to see the words ‘I love you’ from him. And I was in a gift store when I saw this journal on the shelf and just decided to buy it and give it to him. I did not expect that he would become obsessed with this journal. He wrote 200 pages… He wrote to Jordan, or son, about even the beauty of rainbows after a storm. He made an exercise program for him. He told him stories about his own childhood, about his first kiss. He told Jordan about racial discrimination, told him to appreciate all people, how to handle himself on a date, what to do if he gets his heart broken. On the last page, he, in essence, wrote a letter that said, ‘This is everything I could think to teach you to be a man if I don’t make it home.’ And he had one month left to go when he was killed.”

On what it was like to see her deeply personal story on screen:

“I was so close to everyone involved. I’m a producer on the film, directed by Denzel Washington, starring Michael B. Jordan, and this incredible actress Chanté Adams. And the first thing [when] we went to set, I brought a duffel bag, and I had Charles’s dog tags in the bag and the journal and even the outfit that Jordan wore to his father’s funeral. And I wanted them to understand, you know, we’re real people. We’re not just characters, and they got that… They did such a good job, I almost felt like I was watching Charles and me… and it was beautiful. But it did make me miss him a lot more.”

On what she hopes people take away about grief and the grieving process from the film:

“Grief is so personal. And everybody experiences it in their own way, and in their own time. There are some things that surprised me about it. The first, how physical it is, how it physically hurts, and I found it hard to breathe for weeks. But you have to just be patient with yourself. There are no shortcuts to getting through grief. People sometimes say take it one day at a time. Actually, when you’re grieving, you’re that broken, you have to sometimes take it one hour at a time. And there are days when the best you can do is just stay in bed, and feel sorry for yourself. But you can’t stay there forever. And my son was the reason for me to get up.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.