Former Salina resident Diana Cannon Ragsdale released her first book, Loose Cannons, on May 4, 2022 and in it, includes memories of time spent in the area. She and her then husband, Ken May, transferred to Salina with the mine, and she said it was a big adjustment for her to come to the small town after being born and raised in Salt Lake City.
“The first year we lived there I was attending the U, so every week I’d commute to Salt Lake City, so that was a strange time for us and I didn’t really have a chance to adapt, but after I graduated I really learned to appreciate the area and enjoyed my time there,” said Ragsdale. “I made many close friends that I continue to stay connected with and my three children speak often of their time in Salina and the good memories they have.”
Her oldest two children graduated from North Sevier High School, Stephanie Anderson in 1999 and Scott Anderson in 2001, and Ragsdale and May divorced when her youngest daughter, Haley, was a junior.
Her degree from the University of Utah is in physical therapy, and she worked at Central Utah Physical Therapy while in the area as well as with home health and learned to love and enjoy many aspects of Sevier and the neighboring counties. Though she said she’s not a writer, she’s more of a science person, she’s always wanted to write a memoir, but while raising children and working life was too chaotic and it just wasn’t the time, but seven years ago she began the process.
“I took several writing and character development classes, and though I worked with a ghost writer, the story is so personal and so complicated I really wanted it from my own voice and my own perspective,” said Ragsdale. “I enjoyed the process and writing the book helped me put things into words, to make sense of it all. My whole life was riddled with chaos and disorder and there was so much going on, I really needed to do it.”
Loose Cannons, A memoir of Mania and Mayhem in a Mormon Family, begins in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Ragsdale’s family was a Mormon dynasty with ancestors who were contemporaries of Brigham Young—and they had many dark secrets to keep. Growing up at the mercy of her mother’s depression and father’s undiagnosed schizophrenia, Diana and her five siblings were left to fend for themselves as their mom and dad rotated in and out of psychiatric hospitals and police custody.
Finally, in 1966, Diana’s mother left her family and the Mormon Church to start a new relationship with a woman, sending Diana’s father into a tailspin. In Loose Cannons, Diana traces her rebellious 1970’s girlhood— amidst her father’s multiple suicide attempts and remarriage to her mother’s sister. As she and her siblings barreled into adulthoods they weren’t ready for, they tried to rely on each other while reproducing broken relationships of their own. Eventually, after several divorces and while raising three children of her own, Diana reconnected with her estranged mother and inherited a lifetime’s worth of her journals. After decades spent searching for answers, her mother’s writing about swinger’s parties, sexual abuse, ancient wounds and broken attempts at happiness reframed everything Diana thought she knew about her family and herself. A debut memoir like no other, Loose Cannons is a harrowing and hilarious saga spanning more than 60 years of multigenerational trauma and dysfunction—and the spiritual power it took to overcome it all.
She said the book does have a happy ending; her parents have both passed away, but she was able to mend things with her mother, and though her father was severely mentally ill, she has forgiven him and herself and come to good terms with it all.
“It was time for me to dig deeper into my past to try to understand how I ended up divorced three times by age 51 with a trio of emotionally damaged kids. Broken, humbled, and raw, I began letting go of all the delusions about myself,” she said. “Once I acknowledged and owned up to my secrets, lies and deceit, and forgave myself, the right people and messages started showing up. I started focusing on gratitude, forgiveness, and the power of positive thinking. I ultimately left the Mormon Church because it hindered my journey of growth, discovery, and contemplation. I forgave those who hurt and betrayed me. Writing this book has made me realize there is hope for families born into chaos, mental illness, and severe dysfunction, especially if that family chooses to hold onto each other no matter what. Now, at age 62, I am alive and happier than ever. I am grateful to be free to believe in what I choose. I write my truth with a desire to help those who might be having similar questions, or who are facing what feels like an insurmountable amount of fear, self-doubt, shame, or guilt.”
She said she hopes to share that her message in writing the book is that even if you’re born in chaos and experience a traumatic childhood, there’s hope to repair those relationships and make a happy life for yourself. By owning your part in it, forgiving yourself and others, it is possible to take a painful situation and turn it into a positive purpose.
The book is available in all four formats at local northern Utah bookstores as well as Amazon and later this summer Ragsdale is planning on visiting local friends to do a book signing. If interested, contact Leslie Nelson.