ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “I’ll Fix America Tonight” by Nathan Andrew Roberts

“I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend)” by Nathan Andrew Roberts

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

If you are tired of Democrats and Republicans making empty promises, and their followers dogmatically choosing sides on every debate and issue so their guys can remain in power, you’re a lot like the author of this book. Tackling tough issues like the immigration debate, slavery reparations, minimum wage, taxes, college tuition, the insurance industry, business, the role of government in ordering our lives, prisons, the relationship of society to police, and many more, he proposes revolutionary solutions instead of choosing to spend 70,000 words needlessly criticizing. Coming from the view that every human is an image-bearer of God, and that all man-made structures and agendas are open for debate, he offers up solutions to some of America’s most burdensome problems which can be considered and implemented to make both sides happy. Understanding that too many people nowadays take themselves far too seriously, he also gives the reader many self-deprecating and humorous asides (something sorely lacking in political and social debate). Buy this book and join the fight against poverty; namely his poverty.

REVIEW:

What an unexpectedly timely book!

It just so happens that Nathan Andrew Roberts’ I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend) hit the top of my reading pile at the same time as the peak of America’s chaotic situation a few weeks ago, and that means I’m posting this review in a bit of a changed world from the one that existed beforehand. I sense that feelings are still running extremely high among both Republicans and Democrats here in the USA, and that not everyone is quite ready to open their minds to entertain the many exciting and interesting thought experiments that Roberts describes in his book––but I also hope and even truly believe (by force of will, maybe) that just as many if note more people are eager to reconcile with their friends and family on the other side of the aisle, and that a book such as this one has a real and useful function as we move forward into our brave new world.

Speaking of, I find our cultural associations with that Shakespeare reference (see below) quite useful indeed. It comes from The Tempest, my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, and is spoken by a young woman named Miranda, who has been sequestered on an island since infancy. When she meets outsiders for the first time, her reaction is:

In the eons since Shakespeare penned those lines, we have also seen the reference given quite the negative connotation, thanks in no small part to the British pessimist Aldous Huxley, who published Brave New World in 1932. Both Shakespeare’s play and Huxley’s dystopic novel are replete with social commentary, particularly on the nature of different worldviews.

For my part, I’ve always been drawn to Miranda’s approach. She falls in love with everything she meets, and is willing to suspend judgment where others leap to the worst conclusions about each other around her.

Nathan Andrew Roberts’ recent book is more or less designed for us Mirandas. He asks us to suspend our judgment of each other and work toward common goals and make daring attempts to heal the breaches between our American political parties.

In his introduction, Roberts writes:

Government (including education and municipalities), business, places of worship, and other societal groupings are the pillars of society. Family is the foundation. When the foundation crumbles, so do the pillars. What I propose is drastic changes to all of these. Mind you, many of my ideas come from a morally conservative Christian viewpoint (if you can’t even bear to listen to my words past this sentence, I would be happy to provide you a refund) but I take a centrist and liberal stance on many different political and societal issues.

“I‘ll Fix America Tonight” by Nathan Andrew Roberts (2020), p. iii.

Having framed his own personal stance in this way, Roberts goes on to say: “Now, there are some ideas pertaining to a lot of facets of our society contained herein.” So far, so good. But Roberts also has a request of his readers! “What I would ask of even the most unreasonable of readers is that if you detest one idea or belief of mine that you refrain from waving off all others.” He describes the book as a buffet, full of various thought experiments from which a reader can pick and choose what appeals, and leave the rest.

And wow, does he cover quite a few topics! It’s worth noting here that my family, too, is fractured between two (or three, or four, or more) radically different worldviews, and certainly represents both sides of the current political system. Running down Roberts’ table of contents is a lot like looking at a list of conversation topics we try not to bring up over the dinner table: the military, reparations, welfare, and education among them. We are not so invested in some of the other topic he covers, like foreign aid––but as this is a buffet, I didn’t feel as though I had to have a clear opinion on what the “fix” should be by the end of that chapter; I was merely curious what radical changes Roberts might suggest, and what funny anecdotes he might share. For some of the chapters that have been topics of serious disagreement among my family and friends, I found myself paying more attention to the suggested “fix” than to the humorous bits. Knowing that I had Roberts’, how shall I put this, permission to move back and forth meant that I didn’t set the book down when I disagreed with a point (or ten). I simply made a note (and probably said huh out loud) and moved on, knowing that I’m not being asked to carry the burden of forming a set opinion, just to entertain a possible future by way of thought experiment.

Roberts is, as my father would say, something of a “goofball.” He loves a good pun, cracks himself up with his own “dad jokes” and stories, and generally keeps the entire book light-hearted. (“That question isn’t rhetorical,” he writes at one point. “I want you to compose your answer in a well-worded essay and mail it to me. Route it through my temporary office at the North Pole.”) That said, he always clearly signals when he wants his readers to take him seriously. I really appreciated that. He’s seen and been through enough to more than fill out a straight memoir, but he chose to take on this project because he wants to help this country heal. I love that about this book: its intentions are so pure.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Roberts also writes well! His language is accessible, and the book has been edited well. It doesn’t dither around, but rather is nicely streamlined. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book (any book!) dealing with politics that was under 400 pages––and Nathan Andrew Roberts gets all of his work done in fewer than 300. My wrist (and attention span) are eternally grateful. And he ends the book on such a positive note: “I believe in us. Ready?” Yes, wolf pack supervisor, I am ready. Let’s build some bridges.

IN SUMMARY:

In a world absolutely riven with civil unrest (and sometimes, uncivil unrest), there is absolutely a need for more books like Nathan Andrew Roberts’ I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend). His goal of providing fresh ideas to address social and political inequities that all parties can agree on is a fabulous one. I personally enjoyed the thought experiments he describes in this book, but I have the feeling this will be a book that lands well among people already willing to reconcile and make compromises to improve public discourse.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find I’ll Fix America Tonight wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

In Your Corner: Here’s to 2021, the year you publish a book!

Welcome to a new year!

If you are like many writers, publishing a book is probably on your 2021 to-do list. Perhaps you even marked it down as one of your New Year resolutions! Hopefully, despite everything happening out there in the world, you’re feeling refreshed, inspired, excited––maybe a little scared or overwhelmed––and it’s likely that you’re hoping your dream won’t become another failed resolution that gets pushed to the back burner after the thrill of the new year wears off. (And after only two weeks, many of us are past the honeymoon phase already.)

Well, we are here to help. Throughout January, we will offer you tips and tricks to help you accomplish your goal of publishing a book this year––and afterward, of course, I personally encourage you to continue reading my posts throughout the year for inspiration, advice, and news that will help you become a successful author.

So let’s get started.

The first thing you must do if you want to accomplish your goal is break it down into smaller, more manageable and measurable tasks. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed, getting side tracked, and losing inspiration.

I find it helpful to have a calendar in front of me when I complete this task, to help with setting deadlines and factoring in events that may impact my writing goals. I’ve also found it useful to separate my writing life from my bedroom and living room. Setting up a dedicated space for writing may prove difficult, depending on how your household is set up at the moment, but physically getting off of the couch is already a huge step in preparing me mentally for planning such a monumental task.

Now, let’s ask ourselves these questions:

  1. How much time do I need to dedicate to writing each day, week, or month?
  2. When do I want to start the publishing process?
  3. How will I fund my project?
  4. When do I want to complete my first draft?
  5. How much time do I need to edit my first draft?
  6. What tasks besides writing (i.e., researching, marketing, etc.) will I need to complete?
  7. What will help me be successful?

Using our answers to these questions, we next need to write down small, measurable goals for our projects and put them some place we will see them often. If you need a bit of support in defining measurable goals, I can’t recommend NPR’s Life Kit podcast episode from December featuring BJ Fogg, who works at Stanford in behavioral science. (Check it out HERE.) We also have to make sure to periodically check our progress and adjust our goals as needed. I’ve been making use of both digital and offline methods to remind me of this, including sticky notes and calendar reminders on my phone.

I’d love to know, what are your 2021 writing goals?

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth
 

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 1.11.2021

news from the world of
self-publishing

The end of an era has arrived. The Kindle Lending Library has been one of Amazon’s longest-running services, having been launched in 2011 in part to help boost readership of the self-published works in its collection. The loss of access to this service will be a blow to those authors who have listed their titles in the Kindle Store, in that it will lower the circulation of their books, and will be deprived of the algorithmic benefits of proving popular in the lending library––once upon a time at least, if a book became popular in the Kindle Lending Library, it gained both word-of-mouth benefits in its offline sales and in exposure to new readers on Amazon by way of the “If you liked [x] you might also like [y]” algorithm. Writes Kozlowski, “This program was basically supplanted in 2016, when Amazon released Prime Reading. […] You can borrow up to 8 titles at a time, so it makes sense to use this over the Lending Library.  Prime Reading is also available in way more markets, such as Canada, US, most of Europe and even China.” His next paragraph is even more telling:

Amazon hardly ever announces the discontinuation of products or services, but they did it for this one.  With the Lending Library now officially over, in a couple of weeks, where do you get content now? Amazon is continuing to hype up Prime Reading for members, just like Prime Video is free for subscribers. Amazon also has Kindle Unlimited, which has way more titles than PR, but you have to pay a monthly fee.

Michael Kozlowski, Good eReader

If Kozlowski is correct, most readers who use Amazon as their point source for new reading material will already have crossed over from the lending library to the Prime Reading option, so the end of the service may have no further negative impact on self-publishing authors. That said, it marks both the end of an era and reflects Amazon’s overall shift away from its early days of author advocacy to a de-prioritization of those same authors’ best interests.

Evan Winter, a traditionally published fantasy author, originally published this think piece in the SFWA Bulletin, a publication of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and one of the premiere SF&F-related publications out there. Even though Winter himself has chosen to publish exclusively by way of the traditional route, he structures his article as a sort of exposé of the publishing industry overall and comparing both traditional and self-published “ecosystems.” Writes Winter, “Not long ago, I was asked where traditional publishing spaces are failing self-published writers, and I think I may have an answer: everywhere.” His decision, he writes, was informed by the democratizing influence of self-publishing and the power of traditional publishing to promote his books’ visibility––spliced with a healthy abundance of representat

This is because traditional publishing spaces aren’t structured in form or objectives to value the needs of self-published writers and their works. The ecosystem in which these spaces operate isn’t set up for self-published books and so the books have an extremely difficult time gaining the attention and acceptance of enough traditional publishing spaces to maintain a virtuous cycle of visibility, which is a primary benefit that these spaces offer. 

Evan Winter, SFWA Bulletin

While he goes on to define the benefits to self-publishing for diverse authors who have not had a chance to see characters like them on the page––”Today, self-published writers can be read, make a living, and put out stories that might have an ardent audience even if those same stories wouldn’t attract an advocate in traditional publishing”––Winter admits that he chose to publish traditionally for commercial reasons. Even though this article is a testimony to that choice, it also, we believe, poses an important question to authors wavering in their own decision-making: How much do you value the preservation of your original perfect vision for your book’s content? That’s the trade-off: visibility for creative control. It’s a tough choice for many, we know.



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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “When the Bullying Stops,” by Bernice L. Dunlap

Welcome to 2021!

And … on to the review!

When the Bullying Stopped by Bernice L. Dunlap

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

KEEPING SILENT ABOUT BULLYING ENABLES IT TO CONTINUE

This story is about an eight-year-old boy named Peter, who was in the third grade at Leonard Street Elementary School. Alex and his friends, Max and Jax, picked on Peter every day. These boys were also in the third grade at the same school. This bullying made life miserable for Peter, and he knew he had to find the courage to tell his parents how Alex and his friends were terrorizing him at school.

REVIEW:

Oh, how the world needs more books like this one.

In When the Bullying Stopped, written by Bernice L. Dunlap and nicely illustrated by Julia Andrzejewska, we start with three bullies and one victim: Peter. Peter is a bit less muscled and a whole lot less of a dominant personality than Alex, the bullies’ ringleader, as well as Max and Jax, Alex’s sidekicks. (I am curious why the author chose to end all three bullies’ names in ‘X’s! I found it interesting––but that may just be coincidental.) Alex and co. give poor Peter a rather rough time, trashing his lunch one day and stealing his lunch money the next. Peter is a good boy, although he feels mighty small when faced by those bullies, so while he is at first afraid enough to go hungry, he eventually brings his parents and the school principal into the conversation, and just desserts (suspensions) are handed out to the three villains. Two of these villains, Jax and Max, move out of town (and therefore the narrative) at this point, while Alex continues on.

The book then transitions to following Alex instead of Peter, and here is where the bully becomes the bullied. Some kids from another local school rough Alex up, and he is left injured and frightened by the experience. Peter, who is indeed a very good boy, attempts to help his former bully despite Alex’s protests and the other kids in the schoolyard keeping well enough away. (I assume this is because they themselves had been hurt by Alex and co. in the past, and were hesitant to get near him––but this might prove an interesting point for discussion.) Peter then searches out the principal on his own and finds Alex the help he needs. Receiving assistance from someone he has wronged in the past proves a good learning experience for Alex, who eventually changes his ways and makes friends with Peter, gaining the confidence of his other peers as well.

All of this, and in only 24 pages!

The book pages are divided evenly between alternating full-page illustrations and full-page text-centered pages. There is quite a lot of text on those latter pages, proportionate to the page number, so I do recommend that readers take it slow and spend ample time pointing out what they see mirrored in the illustrations. The text is nicely edited and formatted for When the Bullying Stops to be an easy read for those who, like me in my library life, have to read their picture books upside down. I appreciate a readable-while-inverted book!

While I did not notice any negatives while reading, I do have two suggestions in order to ensure that those using this book meet with the best possible success. Parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers will want to make sure to define and contextualize some of the more advanced words or terms used by Dunlap; a word like “protruding” or a term like “fetal position” are entirely possible to explain, especially in context, but they are unlikely to prove easily understandable to younger readers in kindergarten or, possibly, first grade. My other suggestion for these same youngest readers would be to break up the reading of the book into two distinct readings with some discussion in between as well as after. While the story itself is straightforward, the first section deals with a victim of bullying making the great decision to report his experiences to his parents and principal, and the second section deals with the bully, who after he is suspended is bullied himself. The book ends with some possibilities for rich future discussion with young readers. Why did the other children, many of whom had been bullied themselves, not assist the bully when he was beaten up? What does this book tell us about forgiveness and compassion? How would you respond if someone threw your lunch in the trash? … and so on.

I’m excited to see what all this book can do out there in the world, in homes and classrooms. And speaking of classrooms, I’m very interested indeed to see how this next year of hybrid/remote/classroom education settles out. Here’s hoping we achieve a new (and healthy, happy) normal sometime soon!

As a final note, consider this book’s title: When the Bullying Stops. What does happen afterward? As Dunlap suggests, it may just be an opening for personal growth, change, and classroom rapport. I’m sure you all might have some suggestions, as well!

IN SUMMARY:

In a world where bullying is tragically common, an accessible picture book like When the Bullying Stopped by Bernice L. Dunlap might just make a big difference in a child’s life. I also highly recommend checking out Dunlap’s other books for children.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Stella the Rejected Star wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours!

Merry Christmas!!

This year, the happy job of posting on Christmas Day has fallen to me, and I couldn’t be more grateful––for you, our readers, and for the chance to share even just a hint of the love and boundless joy at the end of what has been, for many of us, one of if not the most difficult years on record.

I took a moment this morning to think back over what we have already overcome in the last twelve months:

  • COVID-19,
  • Quarantine,
  • Isolation,
  • Separation from friends, family, and loved ones,
  • Intense regulation,
  • Civil unrest and a hotly debated political season,
  • Countless disruptions to routine,
  • Financial hardships, and
  • Loss and grief over all of the above …

And I just have to say, my friends, that you are absolute champions. You’ve made it through so much. And no, I don’t necessarily think that making it through to everyone’s favorite holiday or even turning the calendar page onto a new year will magically ease all of our burdens, but I do truly think we are on the cusp of something new and good. For some of us that may be the comforts that a favorite holiday or a new year will bring, and for others it might be the time to finally work on that next book, and for still others it might just be the space to finally draw breath and think of something other than surviving the next week with food on the table and a loved one to hug.

This has been a long, hard year. But amidst all of the hardship, I have been so very blessed to write to you, read your responses, and work alongside you to make the world just a little bit better, a little bit richer, by having your words and your stories in it.

Thank you.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth
 

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.