"I loved reading this book. The Matador and the Mustang is an intimate, personal story of a martial arts instructor and successful businessman that confronts his past to become the man he is today. For J.C, the importance in our lives is drawn, not from what happens in our everyday life, but rather from how we, as humans, confront and deal with the challenges and tragedy that may come our way - where our most painful experiences and biggest defeats can generate new possibilities and space for growth. This book is a must read for anyone that wants to find inspiration to overcome adversity and bring to fruition a new future for themselves and the people they love."
"J.C. exposes his life, opens up about his family, his feelings and his trials and tribulations are relatable in many ways …. We all face obstacles growing up and Jamie’s circumstances are his own but are very relatable. He portrays the timeline in the book so vividly and clear. It’s as if your taken back to times in his youth … I couldn’t put the book down ….. if I had to sum the book up in few words …. Inspiring , relatable and raw… rarely does one discuss his or her upbringing and to this degree of truth is cathartic in many levels.. loved the format of the book felt very personable and inviting… way to put pen to paper JC Burkesmith!"
---- Chris T
"The Matador & the Mustang was an amazing book. I suppose that I was riveted because Burkesmith's trials in life mirrored my own in many ways. It was repeated to us many times in boot camp, "what does not kill you, makes you stronger". In his book, Burkesmith is brutally honest about life experiences that most would bury, and take to the grave. To put it out there demonstrates immense bravery."
---- Mark M
"As the author invites you in, you experience the world with him as he recalls some of the events that have shaped his life. You imagine the lessons that you would learn and identify with those events that are similar to the ones in your own life. It is a message of healing and of growth. Well written, easy read. Highly recommend it to any adult or older teenager."
---- Janet T
"It was an easy read full of life’s path to making peace with disappointments on the path to acceptance. Makes important points about not holding on to anger, which stifles individual growth and negates good relationships. It’s about forgiveness."
---- Cathy L
"I was drawn to the book by its title and specifically the use of the word "dysfunctional." The joke in my family is, "We put the 'fun' in 'dysfunctional.'" As I read this novel, I realized that was our way of dealing with trauma: to make a joke out of it, never doing the hard, introspective work, and deal with it responsibly, once and for all. Growing up in an impoverished family wrought with alcohol, physical, and mental abuse, I thought that stuff only happened to poor, white families such as my own. Throughout my entire life, I thought that my family and I were the exceptions to the basic human (and quite frankly common sense) rule of every child should be brought up with love, encouragement, and afforded every opportunity by their parents to succeed in life. Providing for your child does not only include food, shelter, and warm clothing, but more the intangibles as noted above. It’s a parent or guardian’s primary objective to guide, discipline, and ultimately ensure every child's dreams in life fulfilled. Unfortunately, that was not the case where my childhood resided. As I learned throughout the book (and Mr. Burkesmith does an excellent job at painting the vivid picture), things do not, and cannot, always be as they appear. My paradigm shifted considerably when I learned that, while living what would appear to be a privileged upbringing in an upper-class, California beach-type setting (Burkesmith was actually living in Malibu!), he endured many of the same traumatic events my siblings and I went through. Ridicule, torment, mental cruelty, and the constant and methodic tearing down of a small child’s developing sense of self, I began to relate to this Malibu beach kid more with the tun of every page. Burkesmith does an excellent job throughout the book to reiterate to this reader that, while unfortunate and despicable things in life may happen that are not in your control, it is one’s reactions to the events that are ultimately what make up one’s life. Mr. Burkesmith pulls no punches and leaves no ugly stone unturned in his descriptions of his upbringing. By exposing his own familial defects, it encourages the reader to examine their own and look to improve those oftentimes broken relationships caused by abuse, in any form. And doing the hard work of forgiving those who went against us. I drew many parallels between Burkesmith and myself: bedwetting, older siblings that took their own frustrations and insecurities out on him; being expected to succeed without being given the tools for success; his father living vicariously through him and demanding success; struggling with comprehension in school; and coping with failure (and success) through self-medication. The book, at least for me, becomes more of an immersive read for anyone who has dealt with an overbearing father, an imperfect family life, and those seeking an unattainable level of approval from others (and themselves). It took a life-threatening stroke at an early age for Burkesmith to garner the insight and resolution to change his life, shed the baggage of the past that was holding him back and manifesting itself in ways that pulled him farther from his true self and ultimately from his relationship with God. He makes good on solving the challenges he faced, knowing what is important to address head-on in life, and what to let go of and free himself from things he can’t control. Burkemsith should be commended for his unflinching, honest approach to life, while noting that it’s what you do with your circumstances that either gives you an excuse to wallow in misery, take the easy way out and fail in life, or have courage, honesty, and resilience to address them, acknowledge them, and then move forward and not let them hold you back. Burkesmith takes the latter, and I am glad he did. Not only for himself, but to be a beacon of hope for others struggling with getting their lives free from childhood trauma, and that includes me. Some spend many years allowing others’ harsh and unfair opinions, mental cruelty, and the subsequent negative self-talk and poor self-esteem/confidence issues drive us to unfulfilled, shame-filled lives. We imprison ourselves in a jail of our own making, not realizing we are the only ones who can give us the freedom we desire. Burkesmith gives us the permission to pause the insanity and actually do something about it. He did do something about it, and he demonstrates that, through hard work, discipline, and letting go of resentment (however valid), that we can have what he has, as well. Through Burkesmith’s story of struggle, atonement, forgiveness, and ultimate love of self, family, and God, do we allow ourselves the permission to be free of whatever is holding us back. From the beautiful home and beaches in Malibu to the mean streets of East los Angeles and ultimately back to “the ‘bu”, Burkesmith becomes more and more relatable to me than I ever expected. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll cheer for this athletic, courageous bed-wetter. Maybe you, too, will realize that we’re all the same underneath. Where you live, the zeroes or commas in your bank account, none of it matters. No one is immune to the harsh critics and overbearing family members in our lives. In the end, you will find an uplifting story about a remarkable man. As much of an autobiography as this is, it can also be used as a roadmap in life, especially if you are in the same spot(s) as Burkesmith was in a time of struggle. He uncovers the excuses, more like lies, we tell ourselves every day and gives you no justification for failure. My paperback is dog-eared through and “highlighter-ed" throughout as I found nuggets of daily inspiration and mindset-shifting anecdotes throughout. If this is volume 1, I can hardly wait to hear more from this unflinching author."
---Big Al from Boston
“I could not put the book down. I read it in two days. As a mental health professional, I found The Matador and the Mustang to be raw and honest… Burkesmith writes in a clear and engaging fashion and brings the reader as close to his innermost struggles as any author possibly could. He describes his personal struggle with anger, resentment and ultimately grace and forgiveness and the peace that comes with it. I recommend his book to people struggling with addiction as well as those trying to understand their family relationships and struggles.”
— Kirby Palmer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
“The Matador and the Mustang is a pouring out of the heart and soul and mind of Burkesmith in a work that not only reveals a life of trials, heartaches, triumphs, and healing, but one which carries the reader through tumultuous yet therapeutic waves of cathartic emotion.”
---- Carl Pulley, Martial Artist
“An extraordinary journey of a young man fighting his way to success despite all the obstacles and turmoil of a family with many social problems.”
— John Rhind, C.P.A.
“I finished The Matador and the Mustang with tears in my eyes. Tears of happiness, sadness, regret, gratitude, and wisdom. All of the great and wonderful things that a very honest and successful book should provoke from its readers.”
— Janet DiTullo, Grandmother
“What a story about overcoming life’s difficulties… Some parts brought tears to my eyes. I think what Burkesmith has done and how he has handled adversity will be a great message for young people.”
— Bob Frank, Fisherman
“J.C. Burkesmith’s The Matador and The Mustang reveals much about his often-difficult relationship with his family and his personal triumph in overcoming these difficulties. A very entertaining read filled with a heartwarmingly honest portrayal of life’s many intricacies!”
— Frank Morris, Landscaping