Coming Soon: Bedtime Stories for the Living

Release Date: December 3, 2021

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A regular dad. A rare brain disease. A chance to live forever. 

A cell phone’s ring interrupts the silence as Jay Armstrong sits in his high school classroom preparing for the year ahead. Something about the ring makes his stomach drop. It’s his doctor. 

The words, “diffuse cerebellar atrophy, a rare, degenerative brain disease” float through the speaker. All of Jay’s youthful dreams of being a writer rush back, flooding the twenty years he has spent teaching students how to appreciate novels, memoirs, and poetry. The care he put into teaching them how to write with clarity, insight, and humor, and how to dance at the prom. The bedtime stories he never told his children spin in his imagination. It will all die when he dies. 

Jay chooses to experience his condition as an inspiration here to teach him to appreciate the time he still has. He writes letters and stories to his three children about his failing voice, his impaired motor skills, and falling down on Christmas morning. Writing helps him cope with the illness and its symptoms. And so, he accepts the mission of writing more stories for them: the difference his father’s wink made at a critical moment of a baseball game, why they should take walks even in cruddy weather, and how he avoided having to explain what semen is for.

As his condition worsens, Jay’s faith in the power of storytelling deepens. His daily life is wildly different than he foresaw, and possibly shorter, but he can leave his children a legacy more valuable than any financial inheritance. He writes Bedtime Stories for the Living, an episodic memoir to show his children how to accept their limitations and find joy. The collection of tender, witty stories about fatherhood, persevering despite illness, and pursuing your dreams, demonstrates how love gives us the strength to face heartache with bravery and grace.

Early Reviews:

“It is a unique experience to read a book that speaks directly to your heart.

If you live with a rare life altering disease, you spend a lot of time in your head. It’s hard to put the thoughts into words. In Bedtime Stories for the Living, Jay Armstrong accurately articulates the thoughts of any person living with a rare disease or other challenge in life and thus relates to the reader on a level that is not often experienced. Whether you are newly diagnosed or living with a rare disease or disability for a long time, this book will speak to you.”

Kyle Bryant, spokesperson for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance and host of the Two Disabled Dudes podcast

“Jay Armstrong is a wonderful storyteller. I knew this the moment he joined me on my podcast. I’m thrilled to see that his storytelling translates to the page and his book is filled with stories. Jay shares stories of his challenges, his triumphs and his medical journey. I’m so glad he continues to share his stories.”

Jesse Jackson, Host of the Set Lusting Bruce podcast

“Jay Armstrong’s debut, Bedtime Stories for the Living, is part memoir, part confession, and a love letter for his children. Cataclysmic news – a hole in his brain, a rare and poorly understood condition, steady loss of motor skills and speech obstructing his desire to share in each activity with his young children – haunt each page, woven into the prism of sundry fleeting moments. Yet here, these earthy glimpses are charged with mystery, and the holiness of love. Jay’s book is about the quandary of fear and suffering that faces us all, and while his avowed intent is to leave a breadcrumb trail of wisdom for his children, other readers will also laugh, weep, and find solace. Humorous, heart-rending and sage, Bedtime Stories teaches us to be brave in despair, honest when we fail, and most of all, to wrench our dreams from the jaws of disappointment.”

Blake Kilgore, poet and author of Leviathan