I've been a book reviewer for the Nonfiction Author's Association (NFAA) for over a year now. So when I agreed to review nonfiction books for their reward program, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. I'm so grateful to Stephanie Chandler for starting the organization ten years ago. She found, as I have that many associations and development of the craft of writing are devoted to fiction writing; leaving nonfiction authors to attempt to garner what we can from the fiction world.
The most recent book I reviewed for NFAA was Battle Carried: Imperial Japanese Tiger Flags of World War Two by Michael A. Bortner. Wow, did I learn a lot. The book is well-researched and insightful on a very specific topic. Not only is the book well-written, the graphic design is thoughtfully laid out, organizing the illustrations of tigers by their position and stance. This was enjoyable to read and to view as there is so much to learn. This experience felt like being immersed in a wonderful museum exhibit.
When I'm asked to select a book to review for NFAA, I choose a topic to learn something new. This one certainly helped me to meet that objective. If this book didn't find me through NFAA, it may have found me at a used book store or on a table of unfiled books at a library. Fortuitously, the right books seem to find the people who are meant to read them.
I found Don't Shoot I'm the Guitar Man by Buzzy Martin in one of those take a book, leave a book boxes. There's serendipity when books find you, when they reach out asking to be read. I'm fascinated by musicians.
I gave this book a four-star Amazon review. The story is good but the writing needs a little tweaking. As stated in other published reviews, there is too much repetition in the daily journal entries. I was surprised to see that the book was published by a traditional publisher and made it through editing. The book was later turned into a film.
As I started to connect the dots, the reason a traditional publisher picked up this book started to make sense. Buzzy's experience took place in the late 90s. The world was an interesting place then. Pre-teen Polly Klaas was captured in her own home during a sleepover with two other young girls and ultimately murdered by a repeat offender. Her notorious crime created the "three strikes law," putting many in prison for life. It was also the time of the TV show Scared Straight! which was supposed to give at-risk youth insight into what prison life is like, scaring them to stay away. Buzzy, in addition to volunteering at San Quentin, worked with at-risk youth, teaching them music and trying to share the reality of prison life so they might make better choices.
The book was painful to read, and I'm sure, even more difficult to live through. The thought of prisoners serving life touched by the power of music and forgetting where they were for a moment is profoundly moving. Reading Buzzy's stories of interacting with child molesters and murders was harrowing. I'm grateful Buzzy's career path took him to work with at-risk youth and, ultimately, San Quentin prison. He touched people's lives in a way he never could have on a big stage. It broke my heart to learn how the prison was dubbed "San" Spanish for Saint. Like any good memoir, this book provides the opportunity to learn and grow. I can forgive the repetition in the writing. I'm grateful to Buzzy for sharing his gift and then sharing the story with the world.
Alicia Dale is a strategic thinking Creative that understands the power of words to influence, change and build new infrastructures. This Blog is to capture ideas that have no where else to go at this very moment. Who knows how they will be developed? Or where they will go? For now they are sparkles of light easily stored where I can search and find them when they call my name again.