A review of ‘The Director: a Memoir’

 Illustration by: Megan Rowe

Illustration by: Megan Rowe

With the promises of becoming a movie star, J, a young college student, pushes herself to do things she knows she would later regret. The Director, a much older man, uses his status and his power to pressure J into sexual favors and acts, explaining to her that he needs to see her in this new way to give him the inspiration to finish her role in the movie.

“The Director: a Memoir” is a true story comprised of author and professor J.K Stein’s journal entries written throughout the entirety of her five year relationship with The Director. The Director is a high profile Hollywood director who was awestruck by J’s beauty and “blooming sexuality’” as he put it, while buying a coffee on the Upper West Side of New York.  

Stein was inspired to turn her journal entries into a book by the national #metoo movement as described in her forward. The book is dedicated to “those who broke the silence and to those still searching for their voice.” Stein said that with all the hype in the media surrounding this particular director, she felt like it was a call to arms.

“I had always wanted to put this out there in some way, I just never really knew how or what or why but I had always wanted to do that and it just seemed like the time was now,” Stein said.

The memoir begins in 2013 near the end of Stein’s relationship with The Director. In the chapter titled “Aftermath,” Stein details her meeting with her therapist, Thea, where the reader discovers details about Stein’s dark past. The reader learns about Stein’s past struggle with eating disorders and about her toxic and abusive relationships with both her boyfriend David of three years and The Director of five years. The memoir goes into detail about highly sensitive material which can be difficult to read.

“The person writing it is not so important, it’s not about who the individual is and it’s not about who the director is,” Stein said. “This issue is pervasive and it’s happening everywhere and I think it’s important for people to know how complex sexual abuse is and how complex some of these other psychological issues are.”

The memoir was written not only to challenge the stigma surrounding sexual assault, but to share J’s story in order to reclaim her power and to let her voice be heard. A lot of the choices made by J are ones motivated by her distorted body image and her insecurities which were taken advantage of by The Director and used to make himself feel more powerful.

Many times in the book J talks about playing down her intellect for the benefit of The Director. This meant having her own opinions and thoughts, but having no voice. J allowed The Director to play on her emotions and insecurities, he would give her just enough to make her feel guilty for having limits or for saying no, often pressuring her into acts she was uncomfortable with.

In the end, J finds her voice. She reclaims her power by understanding the one thing in life she has control over is the ability to not listen. People may say things, but it does not mean you have to believe them, Stein said.

“It seems so obvious to me now that I don’t have to listen, but at the time it felt like I had to. It felt like whatever other people said was the truth, that I had to listen,” Stein said. “For whatever reason, if any emotional manipulation was involved it always felt like to me that I had to.”

The honesty and power portrayed through this memoir gives the reader a connection to the story. Stein provides the reader with a true look into a five year gap of her life, and nothing was hidden from the reader, allowing them to form a bond with J and to go on this journey with her.

The memoir has moments that can be difficult to read, but ones that add to the power behind her story and her voice. It speaks for those who have gone through challenges in life and it provides them with a sense of belonging.

Excerpt:

“The Language I used with myself and that used by others has, at times, been powerful enough to keep me in a series of abusive relationships, including my five-year “relationship” with The Director, and an almost-three-year relationship with David. The language used by The Director was the foundation of his stories, his promises, and his lies. The language used by me was the bedrock of the stories, promises, and lies I told myself, in service of what I deemed to be a greater good. It took me telling myself a different narrative to escape The Director’s plot.”

 

CultureAddie Marzinske