A Chat with Ian Morgan Cron

One of the perks of my new job is meeting people I admire. At a recent conference, I found myself in the same room with a name I had been hearing a lot of lately, Ian Morgan Cron. I walked over to say hi and a bit later, those waiting on me had to drag me away from discussing creatives and therapy and something about monkeys?He is captivating and  he has a brilliant new book out, Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me, a memoir of sorts. Without further ado.... a chat with Ian Cron.

Why did you decide to write a memoir?

It began with finding a picture of me as a toddler sitting in rowboat on a beach in Greenwich, CT, waving and laughing at the photographer. I had this eerie feeling that this kid somehow knew when the picture was being taken that I would discover it years later when I was ready to take the journey of healing. I framed the picture and put it on my desk. One day I figure out he wanted me to write this book. Creepy, right?

Why call it  'a memoir of sorts'?

This is so important that I devote a whole page to explaining it in the first chapter. It has to do with transparency. The book dances on the hyphen between the genres of memoir and autobiographical fiction. There are pieces of my story I changed out of necessity. I played around with timelines and locations so it would be more coherent, I changed almost every name except my own; I conflated people; I left out or softened material that I thought would be too hurtful to people who didn’t sign up to be in my book. What’s important for the reader to know is that the book tells the truth about my childhood either in fact or in essence and most often both.

How did you know you had the gift of writing?

I am not sure if writing is a gift as much as it is a craft that demands a great deal of work and commitment on a writer’s part if he or she wants to improve at it. Clearly there are people that have an annoying amount of talent for working with words, metaphors, and story, but I don’t know an artist of any kind who would say talent or having a gift is enough. You need discipline.

Creativity- what inspires you? How do you cultivate creativity in your life?

Stephen King once said “the only real requirement to be a writer is the ability to remember every scar.” I find creativity not only in contemplating the places of light in my heart but in going into the hidden rooms where my grief and loss reside as well. This might sound really depressing but its part of the cost of being a writer, dancer, painter, sculptor, or any other kind of creative. People who refuse to face their scars not only can’t write serious material, they can’t write truly funny material either! People who can’t get honest about the dark side of their hearts or haven’t grieved the losses of their past tend to produce sentimental, Hallmark card kind of stuff. Sentimentalism in art is an awful sin.

I also get inspired by other people’s work that I think is masterful whether its in books, music, theater film or any in any other artistic medium.

How can people forgive who have been through painful childhood experiences like you forgive the people who hurt them?


know people who went through childhood experiences far, far worse than my own and have been able to forgive the folks who wounded them. Unlike many Christian I feel Christianity is less something you do than something that gets done to you. Its grace and the Holy Spirit that make forgiving others possible. All we can do is regularly get ourselves in those places where God is most apt to meet us and yield to him. The ability to forgive someone is a gift God gives you. You can’t manufacture it.

In one chapter you write about ‘falling into God’ – explain.

This happened at my First Communion Mass when I received the Eucharist. It was an uninvited and momentary experience of profound union with God, a graced-moment that was such a gift to me. Even as a boy I saw the world through a kind of mystical lens. I knew deep in my soul that we lived on a planet brimming with God. The experience of falling into God has only happened to me three times in my life but they changed me forever.

Have you tried to find out more about your father's work with the CIA?

Years ago I contacted the CIA and asked them under the Freedom of Information Act to tell me what my father actually did for them. They don’t go out of their way to make it easy to get an answer. There’s no woman at Langley who answers the phone and says, “Oh you want to know what your dad did for the CIA? No problem honey, let me just grab his file.” I had to jump through one hoop after another until one day I finally received a letter that said something to the effect of “We can neither confirm nor deny that your father ever worked for the CIA and if he was in the clandestine services we can never tell you.” What I know of his work I’ve learned through others.

What do you hope people experience in your new book?

Its funny but I haven’t really thought about this question. I certainly didn’t set out with it in mind. I suppose I’d like them to fall into God as well. I would be happy if it helped them realize that we are the objects of God’s affection regardless of what life hands us.

Leave one word describing your father.

I will send one of you a copy of Ian's book. You want this book! Thank you Ian.

Jennie Allen20 Comments