When Nora Jane Struthers' Identity Was Stolen, She Created A New One

May 30, 2015
Originally published on May 30, 2015 5:07 pm

Nora Jane Struthers may never have become a singer-songwriter if her identity hadn't been stolen. Rebuilding her life allowed her to take a risk and do something she'd wanted to for years. It paid off: She has a new album out titled Wake.

Her story begins at a charter school in Brooklyn where Struthers worked as an English teacher.

"I started teaching sophomores and moved to teaching seniors in my last year," Struthers says. "I loved it."

Then, she got into a relationship.

"I started dating the art teacher," she says. "We both started talking about the possibility of moving out of the city and he could do art and I could do music and we could move somewhere together and sort of start a new creative life."

Just as they started to plan their future, Struthers received a letter in the mail. It was from a bank about a check that had been deposited in an account that she didn't know about.

"The check was actually a check that was made out to me that I was expecting and had never received," Struthers says. "I was obviously distressed because someone had stolen my identity."

A month later, a credit bureau called with new information. There was a name that kept appearing on the new accounts.

It was her boyfriend.

"She also told me that he had opened an account on my credit card and charged a new computer to it," she says. "And so I just totally lost it."

When she returned to her classroom, the principal at the charter school pulled her aside to inform her that her boyfriend had also forged his teaching certificate.

"It was just such an incredible shock," she says. "I was just ready for a brand new start. I was kind of over New York but I had a friend who was living in Nashville and he invited me to come down. I just thought, 'Why not? It's Music City, after all.' "

As soon as the school year ended, she packed her bags, hopped in her parents' minivan, and drove down to Tennessee.

"I just remember feeling like I escaped," she says. "I escaped a life that I was building for myself and thought was going to make me happy. ... My boyfriend stole my identity and the poetic irony is that it allowed me to create a new one in which I'm both incredibly fulfilled and have found true love."

Hear the full piece at the audio link.

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KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, HOST:

Nora Jane Struthers may never have become a singer-songwriter if her identity hadn't been stolen. Rebuilding her life allowed her to take a risk and do something she'd wanted to for years. It paid off. She has a new album out titled "Wake." But let's start at the beginning, at a charter school in Brooklyn, where Nora Jane worked as an English teacher.

NORA JANE STRUTHERS: I started teaching sophomores and moved to teaching seniors in my last year. I loved it.

BATES: Then she got into a relationship.

STRUTHERS: So I started dating the art teacher. We both started talking about the possibility of moving out of the city. And he could do art, and I could do music, and we could move somewhere together and sort of start a new, creative life. And then I got a card in the mail from a bank saying that your pin has been changed. The only thing was that it was from a bank that I didn't have an account with. So I called the bank and said, you know, let's close the account, and I think something's happened, and why don't you send me a copy of that check that was deposited.

The check was actually a check that was made out to me that I was expecting and had never received. I was obviously distressed because someone had stolen my identity. And then a month later, I get a call, and it's from one of the credit bureaus. She said, well, there's this name that keeps coming up every so often when we're looking at different accounts of yours, and I just wanted to run this name by you and see if it was someone that you happen to know. And then she said my boyfriend's name.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OTHER SIDE")

STRUTHERS: She also told me that he had opened account on, like, my credit card or something and charged a new computer to it (laughter). And so I just totally lost it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OTHER SIDE")

STRUTHERS: (Singing) As we pretend in the morning...

I kick him out. I finish out the school year, and on, like, my second-to-last day of school, my boss comes into my classroom and is like, we just discovered that your ex-boyfriend - I mean, I don't want to use his name - actually, I really want to use his name, but I feel like there could be some bad repercussions to that, so I'm not going to. But anyway, so he comes into the classroom - my classroom and sits me down and says we just found out that he forged his teaching certificate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OTHER SIDE")

STRUTHERS: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh, I wish I knew.

We'd been dating for a year-and-a-half, and we shared a community at work, and I'd met his family, and it was just such an incredible shock. I was just ready for a brand-new start, you know? I was just - I was kind of over New York. But I had a friend who was living in Nashville, and he invited me to come down. And I just thought, you know, why not? It's Music City, after all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OTHER SIDE")

STRUTHERS: (Singing) In my hometown.

So I hopped in my parents' Honda Odyssey minivan, drove myself all the way out to Nashville, and I just remember feeling like I escaped. I escaped a life that I was building for myself and thought was going to make me happy. And I think my boyfriend stole my identity, and the poetic irony is that it allowed me to create a new one in which I am both incredibly fulfilled and have found true love.

BATES: Singer-songwriter Nora Jane Struthers - her new album is titled "Wake."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUTH")

STRUTHERS: (Singing) The South is where my heart is home. I can tell you life is all right to be under the tall pines in the fields of white. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.