Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “November 21, 2010”

Help an Author over Thanksgiving

From Thanksgiving through December is a period of great festivities and socializing. We give gifts to our dear ones for whatever holiday(s) we celebrate. We are invited to people’s houses for dinner or a party, and often we go stay with relatives.

Now I admit that I love receiving a good bottle of wine or a special box of chocolates since these are rare purchases in our tight family budget. But I want to suggest that you look at the gift buying as a double opportunity. Provide a nice, meaningful gift, and help support a struggling author.

From this thought came a list of 10 easy ways you can do to help the author. I would like to share 3 of them that would be easy to do during this season of goodwill. Moreover, I firmly believe that what goes around comes around – when we help someone, we are in turn helped by others.

1. Buy your friend’s book, and if you enjoy it, buy it as a gift in the situations mentioned above.

2. Where should you buy the book? There has been a lot of discussion about where to buy books. Your local independent bookstore is probably struggling to survive. If it is important to you that such businesses survive, now is as good a time as any to patronize them. This is also good for the author as the bookstore will often order 2-3 copies.

The same actually goes for both Barnes & Noble and Borders. They are struggling and closing stores. Also when one store orders a specific book, there is a good chance that other branches in the region might buy it as well – you could start a chain reaction (pun intended!).

First choice: the independent bookstore nearest you (that will help your friend get her book into that store on a regular basis). Second choice: a chain bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble (if they start selling the book locally, they might buy books for more stores in the chain). Third choice: the author’s website (the author makes the most money when selling direct). Fourth choice: buy direct from the author. Fifth choice: Buy from Amazon.com (preferably from the link on the author’s website).

3. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to friends. Blog about it. Tweet a review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Recommend the book to your book group. Post a review on Amazon.com, and other reader social networks. People do read them before making a purchase.

Word-of-mouth remains the most effective form of marketing. So when you are standing at that family get together by the fireplace with Uncle Moe, swirling your wine glass and trying to think of something you have in common beyond shared genes, how about this for a great conversation starter:

My friend just wrote this great book…” And you never knew that old Uncle Moe’s friend at the golf club has a son who works for Random House and is looking to discover the next John Grisham to impress his boss and save his job.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Movies That Matter – The Great Debaters

“The Great Debaters,” is a heavily fictionalized but true story of Professor Melvin Tolson, who in 1935-36 coached the debate team from an all-black college in Marshall Texas to a nearly undefeated season that sees the first debate between U.S. students from white and Negro colleges. Their impressive run leads to an invitation to face Harvard University’s national champions.

The movie apparently received a lot of criticism when it came out. There were a lot of big names attached – Denzel Washington directed the movie while Oprah Winfrey was one of the producers. There are apparently many changes (for example the national champions who invited the debate team at Wiley College, was USC and not Harvard).

But I think those critics miss the point – not least that this is a heavily fictionalized account and was never suggested as anything else. The movie has great acting performances, scenes that have you sweating with fear for the characters, or close to tears of joy or sadness.

If that doesn’t cut it for you, this movie highlights both the gross historical racism that this country was founded upon, and the transformative potential of education. It pitches David .v. Goliath, freedom .v. privilege, and inspires the notion of teamwork and perseverance.

For me, beyond the erudite display of the power and artistry of words, the character of the Wiley College team coach stands out. Melvin B. Tolson, the noted poet, social activist and educator, is not necessarily loveable. He is self-righteous, autocratic and fearless, Mr. Washington’s Tolson reminded me of the stern East London schoolteacher played by Sidney Poitier 40 years ago in “To Sir, With Love.” I almost pursued a career as a teacher after watching this movie.

There is a powerful scene where Tolson, driving home from a debate with his students, comes upon a lynching. The imagery of this hideous atrocity sear your mind, and you are sweating when the mob, still riled with blood lust, chase the car. Afterward, Henry’s shame and stifled fury drive him to a self-destructive spree. This is a powerful scene in its own right, and an aspect that Hollywood often ignores.

“The Great Debaters” still sends an important message. In these turbulent times, as our economy makes a seismic shift and people stand shakily on the edge of the chasm or even fall over the edge, we need more than ever and the transformative power of education and words.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

 

 

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