Book disappointments

Within the last 24 hours I’ve experienced two different types of book disappointments. The first isn’t with the writer, but with the production of the book. As a self-published writer who does her own formatting in her Scrivener program (commence cringing from those who use InDesign, Vellum, etc), I’ve learned a lot about the details of book production, including what does and doesn’t make a good interior. I’ve picked up some of my books and winced at the beginner mistakes. But. None of them are as bad as what I am experiencing from a traditionally published book that I got from the library–and I am the first person to check this book out.

First of all, the glue of the spines is so bad that pages are falling out. If I’d gotten a shipment like this from first CreateSpace and now Ingram Spark, it would be sent back.

Second, and this is definitely upon the publisher, the interior formatting is crap. The interior margins are worse than the tight margins I did in my last book (and regret). Page numbers are very small. Chapter headings are unremarkable. There’s no running title and author headers. All small details, but geez. Isn’t this something that traditional publishing is supposed to be better at than self-publishing? Doesn’t Big Publishing House have decent formatters on staff with, y’know, REAL publishing layout programs instead of my inexpensive little Scrivener? And if they don’t, then what value does a contract with them REALLY have if my worst product looks better than this?

Not mentioning the names for the author’s sake. She’s a decent writer, and doesn’t deserve this sort of cavalier treatment from her publisher. I’ve not looked up details, so I hope the book gluing is just a small fraction of the production. But the interior design…gaah.

The other disappointment is about content, and I need to don my asbestos panties for this one. I had very high hopes for Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States. On a broad level, it delivers what I had expected–a scathing analysis of European settler colonialist misbehavior and attitudes to the current day. It’s very general in some areas, but that’s to be expected from a very broad coverage of several hundred years of history. On an analytic and theoretical level, it works.

But on the details? I kept tripping up on small things. I kept telling myself “she has to keep it broad. She has to keep it general. Otherwise we’re talking a series of books, not one relatively short general history book presenting a thesis which is a very useful analysis.”

And then I read this statement about the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce), the people whose land I now live on part-time. “Some were rounded up and placed in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, but they soon left on their own and returned to their Idaho homeland, eventually securing a small reservation there.” (pp. 149-150 in my version, Beacon Press 2014).


The Nimiipuu did not leave Oklahoma on their own (I am SO not going to touch the “some were rounded up” piece…Bear Paw Battlefield, cough, cough). They argued and fought to leave Oklahoma, with Chief Hinmatóowyalahtq?it (alternately, Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, white name Joseph) going to Washington to petition President Hayes. And when they were finally allowed to leave after seven years in exile and the false promise of being able to return to Lapwai, only those who swore to follow Presbyterian Christianity were allowed to go to the Lapwai Reservation…WHICH ALREADY EXISTED AND WAS THE RESERVATION THEY WERE RELUCTANTLY GOING TO IN THE MIDDLE OF SPRING FLOOD SEASON WHEN WAR BROKE OUT. Most of the Oklahoma exiles were forced to go to the Colville Reservation in north-central Washington, WHICH IS NOT IDAHO AND WAS NOT THEIR OWN TRIBAL GROUP. I have heard Colville Joseph Band Nimiipuu talk about the sorrow their families experienced in going to Colville to the present day. The loss of their Wallowa homeland is still very visceral and deep, as if it happened just yesterday.

I almost threw the book across the room at that one. But the analysis and theoretical pieces kept me going.

It’s worth reading for the analysis, as it does open your mind. But do NOT depend on it for specific details. The Nimiipuu history is not obscure. Books analyzing “what happened” are still coming out, and there are excellent primary sources including primary Nimiipuu voices recorded by white allies (Lucius McWhorter’s Yellow Wolf and Hear Me My Chiefs are examples). The whole fiasco of Isaac Stevens’s flurry of exploitative treaty writing in the Pacific Northwest in 1855 and what happened to the non-treaty Nimiipuu in the Wallowas is thoroughly documented, INCLUDING what happened to the Nimiipuu after the Bear Paw Battlefield. It’s a small detail, but if she gets that wrong, considering how documented these events are? What other details are wrong?

So yeah. My verdict is “flawed, but usable for theory. Check details.”

And I do dearly hope that I just have a flawed first edition and that these details are corrected in a later edition.

I hate feeling this way about something I should be unreservedly supporting.

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