Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Why I Have To Say “Relatable”

Bias Alert: 

  1. Like most English teachers, I shudder at the newly-developing word, “relatable.”
  2. My family and I LOVE the Daily Show; Jon Stewart practically raised our children.

So you might not think we’d love his replacement, Trevor Noah. But you’d think wrong. We loved Trevor from the beginning (forgiving him his occasionally juvenile humor the same way we forgave Jon his old-Jewish-guy schtick).

And now that I’ve read Trevor’s memoir, Born a Crime, I admire him on a whole new levelAnd I admire his mother more.

I only wish I had finished Trevor’s book before Christmas, so I could have given it to everyone I love. I don’t want to tell you too much about it; the book is comprised of anecdotes, to divulge any of which would spoil your joy in reading.

But I will tell you this. Although Trevor claims a different nationality, gender and race (OK, half different–but in South Africa that MEANS different) from mine, I found his story more…RELATABLE than anything I’ve read in the past year. He doesn’t just write of racial injustice–though there’s plenty of that, growing up in the last days of apartheid. He writes of topics I, privileged white American female, RELATE to:

  • adolescent yearnings to belong
  • a complex relationship with religion
  • self-consciousness over appearance
  • heartbreak (over the opposite sex, pets, family members)
  • joy in his own gifts (languages, foot speed–and you’ll see why that’s important!)
  • deep, unshakable love for his AMAZING mother

The book is also really stinkin’ funny, but that’s something I simply appreciate rather than relate to, because, alas, I am not so gifted.

And it’s shockingly sad. Something else I, thanks be, cannot relate to. But Trevor makes his family’s sadness ACCESSIBLE, and that’s close enough. Also–“accessible” is a real word.

Have you read it? Please add your review here. If not, do yourself or someone you love a favor and read Born a Crime as soon as you can.


“So How Many Books Have You Sold?” Why Does That Question Make Me Tense?

Before I published The Flying Burgowski, the question that used to tense me up was “So, are you published?” Now that I’m an Official Author, this is the question that clenches my gut.

“So how many books have you sold?”

Insecurity? That’s just a guess. Like, there’s this Standard of Authorness out there, some random number of units sold, and I’m pretty sure I don’t measure up. Which means…uh-oh…maybe it was all a dream? My hard work doesn’t really count?

My response to this question has been to willfully turn my back on all those handy stats offered by my publishing service. Oh, I could answer that question if I needed to. But I prefer to stay blissfully ignorant.

“I think I’ve sold one to all my friends,” I reply cheerfully. “Luckily I have a lot of friends.”

I’m not a total baby. Of course I set goals for myself: be published by ___, have sold ___ copies by ____. I know I’m roughly on that track–definitely for time, less definitely for number. Turns out that’s enough for me.

for blog

Could I be doing more marketing? Couldn’t everybody? But only at the expense of all the other things we do in our lives. YES, I’m going to invite my community to a book launch party for The Flying Burgowski Book Two, Headwinds, with a dramatic reading and cookies. YES, I’m going to contact the same bookstores and libraries and schools–and add some new ones to the list. YES, I’m going to use the heck out of social media (at least my version of it: this blog, Facebook, and the occasional tweet).


 I wanted to write a story. I did. Then I wanted people to read it. They are. Lucky for me, I never counted on making money from this enterprise. Therefore: I declare victory and move on…

…to Book Three.

Feel fee to weigh in here if you think I need counseling. I will listen gratefully. Just please don’t ask me how many books I’ve sold!

Virtual Book Club, Anyone? The Goldfinch, Canada, and A Tale for the Time Being: Teenagers Adrift in an Adult Sea

This is NOT a book review. It’s an invitation.

By strange coincidence, each of the last three books I’ve read this summer has featured a teenager whose life is wrenched awry by the actions of adults. These are NOT “young adult” novels by any stretch. They are a reminder that young adults can be a microcosm of the human spirit: fate vs. self-determination, culture vs. character, all within the confines of a body whose only constant is change.

Book #1 is the most well-known: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. As I was wolfing it down during a trip, it seemed like everyone I met was reading it too. Problem is, no one who lives close to me has read it, and once I finished it, I was dying to talk about it! So I engaged in a mini-virtual book club with a friend via email, which was so rewarding, I thought of enlarging it to the blogosphere.

Read the book? Post a discussion question, or an observation. Anyone else who’s read it can take it from there.

The Goldfinch is a mind-blowing book, and it will probably be made into a movie. But don’t wait for that. Read it soon. (Not wanting to buy the hardback, not willing to wait for the long library list to dwindle, I snarfed it up on Kindle.) Favorite supporting character: Boris, the Russian teen with the Australian accent and the heart that refuses to harden, no matter what it’s exposed to.


But let me tell you about the other two books! (And maybe The Goldfinch will be out in paper by the time you’re done with them.) 

Richard Ford’s Canada is probably the hardest read, in that it takes time. The deliberate pace is, in fact, part of the book’s theme–but you won’t know that until you’ve read it. I’ll borrow the words of a reviewer here to give you a quick idea of it:

“Canada, Richard Ford’s long-awaited new novel, is not one to be rushed. While the plot sounds sensational — robbery, murders, a flight across the Canadian border — Ford’s laconic, measured prose forces the reader to slow the pace and savor the story. This is a novel about actions, intentions, and consequences as well as about belonging, introspection, and the solitary nature of life. Powerful and atmospheric, Canada will excite and gratify Ford’s fans and introduce newcomers to a masterful American writer.”  –Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, as cited on

Favorite supporting character: Canada itself. Yes, the country. Read the book, then we can talk about that.


The third book is probably the fastest and most page-turning read: Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. It features two narrators: Ruth, the middle-aged author who finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of her remote island in western Canada, and Nao, the sixteen year-old Japanese girl who…of course…wrote that diary. Best supporting character: Nao’s 104 year-old great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, with whom Nao communicates by texting. This book also messes with the whole relationship between author, reader and story. Mind-blowing. But I’ve used that term already, huh.


So…have you read any of these? If so, please chime in! If not, click over to, or rush to your favorite local bookstore to get one, or all three.  Read fast, THEN chime in. I’ll wait.



Indie vs. Amazon: Like Bambi vs. Godzilla, Except Godzilla Has Such Great Products…

I’m supposed to be on Bambi’s side, right? I’m a WRITER. We’re sentimental.

This week I encountered another embarrassing enlightening hurdle step in the learning curve of Indie Authorship: getting my book, The Flying Burgowski, registered with Indiebound.

Oh yeah, Indiebound–isn’t that the site which helps you locate independent bookstores near you? I’d heard of it, supported it in a knee-jerk, theoretical way, but that was all. Then a bookstore owner with whom I’m in contact about doing a reading suggested that I link my book with Indiebound and put that upfront on my website. She was actually pretty nice about it, but I could tell what she wanted to say was more like



Like, “Duh, lady–you’re asking for my support, so how about supporting ME?”

So I registered my book with Indiebound. Just like that. Or not.

See, first of all I had to learn what it WAS, exactly. This bookshop owner is clearly a busy person, so she forwarded my ridiculously naive question to a nice person at Indiebound, who sent me this answer: is not its own ecommerce platform; it is a directory that will redirect potential customers to independent bookstores’ ecommerce platforms. So while you can’t sell the book on itself, you can list the book on and independent bookstores would be more able to sell it.


Aha! Got it. But…hmmm. My book is published via CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Why would Indiebound want to list a book published by the company that’s trying to muscle it out of business?

The Indiebound person was just as nice as the bookshop owner, because here’s what she didn’t say:



Nope, she said this:

Publishing via CreateSpace doesn’t necessarily preclude distribution through an indie, but, depending on each store and its ownership, you may encounter pushback to fulfilling an order for a CreateSpace title, since Amazon is indies’ main competitor. It depends on each store’s policy and approach.

So, yeah. Here I am, brave, stalwart Indie author, asking all my favorite Indie bookstore owners to please help me sell my Indie book that I published thanks to the Un-indiest marketing entity in the history of ever. (OK, no, I take that back–at least Walmart doesn’t have a publishing arm. Yet.)

Chapter Two of my novel is titled “Irony,” and there the protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, gives her favorite teacher’s definition: “Irony = 1 part ‘Ha Ha’ + 1 part ‘Ouch’.”

Feelin’ a little that way this morning. Luckily, the “ouchy” part is largely salved by gratitude: for a life which has allowed me to become an author, and for all the people who have helped me get here, including the ongoing guidance of people like the two women mentioned above, who were clearly not members of the NSS:


And, yes, gratitude for Godzilla Amazon’s CreateSpace. Which means gratitude for Amazon. There, I said it.

Anyone else feeling stuck in this big-vs.-small quandary? What situations make you feel like you’re choosing to put your money where your principles aren’t? (Don’t worry–I will be the last person to judge.)