My mother published her book... and I hate it :(

Hi guys,

Some of you may recall a few months back when I came to H/A to ask for advice regarding my mom looking to get a book published via a vanity publisher (old thread here: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/225100/convincing-mother-not-to-pay-vanity-publisher)

Well, she went ahead and self-published her book at her own expense.
Now, I did help her with some minor edits here and there, but I had not yet read the complete manuscript. Now that I have a published copy, I've read the whole thing and.... I hate it.
It's not just that it's not a very well written book (parts of it are extremely meandering and dry, and she doesn't know who her audience is. She wants to market it as a children's book, but in parts, it's written like a textbook), it's that it also contains (in one particular chapter) some views that I find really... really problematic.

Without going on too long, one of the stories stars one of my nieces as the princess of a kingdom who is dealing with an immigration problem...

Yeah...

Basically, the princess's brilliant plan to "deal" with this problem is to house these immigrants in a separate "city", built by the royal family, where they can live until they "learn our ways".
The story actually goes into great detail on how this might work while, of course, avoiding some of the questions that, you know, would come up in the face of such a proposal.

Of course, my mom is super excited about her book and is constantly poking me for feedback and thoughts. So far I've staved her off with comments like "good for you, mom!" and "I'm proud of you" while avoiding the actual subject matter at hand. It already kills me that I feel like I'm having to lie to my mother about my true feelings on the book because I know they'll be devastating to her, but what concerns me, even more, is that I'm sure she's going to seek opportunities to read her "children's stories" to her own grandchildren, which I feel I just can't abide.

So I'm back, H/A, to solicit advice on how to broach this topic with her. Is breaking her heart unavoidable at this juncture? She's already faced heartbreak after self-publishing a previous memoir chronicling the life of her father, which did not paint a particularly kind picture of him, earning her some pretty bad backlash from members of her family already. I feel like criticism from her own son will just completely shatter her heart, as she honestly does not understand the problematic issues with her view on immigration, and honestly believes her political views on the matter are common-sense and generous. I even remember a conversation we had in the past where the topic of ghettos and segregation were brought up, and her feelings on the matter wasn't that ghettos were a problem on their face, but rather that they (over and over, apparently) were simply mismanaged and fell victim to corruption. Essentially, she believes the "idea" of ghettos is sound, they just fail in execution, and we should basically just try again, but better, or something.

This isn't the alt-right style "sticking it to the libs" type of attitude, it's the "we're doing this for their sake" attitude.

Anyways, I don't want this to turn into a politics thread, I'm more looking for advice on how to broach the topic of differing political views with a close family member without tearing a family apart or if that's even possible anymore.

Basically:

- Should I hide my true feelings on my mother's book (which she's extremely proud of) to spare my mother's feelings, even if that means it might expose my daughter to political views I strongly oppose, or;
- Do I tell my mother the truth, even if it risks shattering her heart, for the sake of my daughter

Thanks again guys.

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Posts

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Wow this.. uh.. seems like it's way above H/A's paygrade.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    She told you how good your finger-painting was when you were 3. Now it is your turn to smile and nod and tell her you are so proud of her.

    Buy your kids/nieces/nephews some really pro-immigrant books to balance it out. I read some fantastically racist children's books at Grandma's when I was a kid and I turned out a huge lefty.

    CelestialBadger on
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  • LovelyLovely Registered User regular
    I am SO sorry Undead.

    Just... so sorry for you.

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  • SatsumomoSatsumomo Rated PG! Registered User regular
    She told you how good your finger-painting was when you were 3. Now it is your turn to smile and nod and tell her you are so proud of her.

    Buy your kids/nieces/nephews some really pro-immigrant books to balance it out. I read some fantastically racist children's books at Grandma's when I was a kid and I turned out a huge lefty.

    This right here, I say you need to ensure her nieces/grandchildren are able to form their own opinions and not just accept anything that comes from her (or you for that matter), so providing them with your viewpoint will help them question what grandma is reading.

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    I probably wouldn't knowingly let kids read some weird xenophobic racist stuff to make mom happy.

    She's an adult. Tell her you have some problems with the message.

    Being family doesn't really excuse any of it. I'm not saying you should start screaming at her and calling her a racist, but you can politely confront her political message to kids.

    Edit: Don't read it to your daughter.

    dispatch.o on
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  • RendRend Registered User regular
    A friend of mine who's a parent commented to me a while ago that there was an unexpected side effect to using the internet and streaming services and such primarily for passive entertainment (tv, movies, etc). That was, when his kids first saw a tv ad, they were completely blown away by it. They hadn't been watching tv commercials for years yet, and had no conception of them or how they worked.

    On the one hand, yeah they're kids, and they are absolutely going to be more susceptible to advertisement than adults (who are already very susceptible to it), but on the other hand, there's a difference between having seen nothing like it and having seen a million things like it.

    My daughter is still not old enough to talk so I'm not quite at this point yet, but I feel like at some point someone close to them will espouse views that are objectively awful and they need to be prepared to examine those views. I think it's probably really important that you handle it carefully, but I also think that this sort of thing is a skill you don't develop without direct exercise.

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    You don't hide those views in a children's book and slip them in when someone is an age lacking in critical thinking. If she's 12 or something, sure go for it and understand talking about it will inevitably end up being an even worse opinion of grandma.

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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2019
    "I'm so proud of you mom"

    "Great here's a copy to read to your kids!"

    "haha no I'm not reading them a book about a concentration camp"

    Seriously though, I can think of a number of dodges or frame-it-to-the-kids-as, but if you think she might want to read it to her grandkids herself you might want to think about whether or not it really matters in the long run.

    If she just hands you a copy you can go 'yeah sure mom I've got you covered' and then put it away, or frame it differently from what your mom probably intended and change the message. If she's under five, it won't really matter. She'll look at it and say "look a princess!" or "yay I'm a princess" or "it's pink!" or "there's a car!" and unless it's brought up again or your mom decides to sit and carefully explain why immigrant detention is actually a good thing and use examples from the real world, she probably won't remember it much at all after that. I promise you the message won't be internalized especially if they're over like 15 pages long, and I'm not sure how many small children can or want to process things that read like meandering textbooks. Over a certain age kids start to understand things in different and more complicated ways, and in those cases you can take the kid aside after and ask what they took from the book. If the takeaway is objectionable, you can address it. If not.. it might honestly be better to leave it alone.

    TL;DR, if your daughter is young enough to be read to rather than reading herself she's more likely to process "grandma is unhappy" than "segregation a-okay." That was very difficult for me to believe until I saw it in action with my own kids."

    ceres on
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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    A lot of kids books actually have weird messages. "If you give a mouse a cookie" can be read as a scathing critique of the welfare state. "The little red hen" could be seen as Ayn Rand for toddlers.

    CelestialBadger on
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  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Honestly if it's badly written and boring the kids probably won't take it on board, like Ceres says, or will even actively refuse to listen to it. I dunno how your kids do reading time, but in my experience they tend to fixate on stuff they love and demand it ad nauseum, while rejecting everything else outright. And they don't have any tact about adult's opinions. So she might not find them as receptive an audience as she hopes.

    If she'd written something charming and compelling with a hideous message, that might be more worrying.

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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Read her your mom's book and then follow it up with "Everybody Poops" and I guarantee you she won't remember what the first one was.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    ceres wrote: »
    Read her your mom's book and then follow it up with "Everybody Poops" and I guarantee you she won't remember what the first one was.

    I Need A New Butt is another great follow up.

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  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus premium Registered User regular
    Yes, basically just override the message with other books on other subjects.

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  • GnizmoGnizmo Registered User regular
    I say simply be honest about your feelings in a way that lets everyone save face. Simply stating that you disagree with the message of the book and do not want your daughter exposed to it at this time. You can. Say whatever nice things you can muster at that point, but framing it as a political disagreement gets you out of a lot of the worst of it I feel. I don't know your mother so perhaps she would take the disagreement more personally than I imagine, but it feels a tactful way to keep it away from your daughter without telling her she is an awful human being. State you disagree and decline to get into a deep discussion about the political messaging beyond that.

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    It's probably true that you could easily obfuscate the lesson and provide your own context with additional books at story time.

    I just see this as two separate problems.

    Do you call your mother out on her views on immigration and human rights violations in detention centers? Or just chuckle at the old people being silly.
    Do you knowingly let your mother weirdly attempt give your child her opinions on immigration and detention centers?

    This isn't really her gifting you a copy of The Giving Tree and then having to discuss the ramifications of a one sided relationship borne of co-dependence.

    Whatever you decide about whether or not to read the story to your child, you should openly disagree with the content of the book if she asks you.

    Your child may not know better or care but you do.

    Edit:

    This is a really really strange thing to write a children's book about. I don't really understand the reasoning behind attempting to do so? I mean no offense, it seems exceptionally out of touch.

    Disclosure:
    I vividly remember an anti-choice activist knocking on my front door as a little kid and talking to me about whether I think killing babies is okay. It took a couple of minutes before my mom came out of the kitchen and chased them off. I remember how convincing their very simple argument was. As I grew up I became more and more angry with the tactic of trying to convince little kids of things. So I'm probably very biased. Weigh that with my opinion.

    dispatch.o on
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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    @Romantic Undead what is the chance she doesn't actually think like this and she just got caught away telling a story and didn't think about the ramifications and implications of what she was writing?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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  • Magic PinkMagic Pink Tur-Boner-Fed Registered User regular
    Gnizmo wrote: »
    I say simply be honest about your feelings in a way that lets everyone save face. Simply stating that you disagree with the message of the book and do not want your daughter exposed to it at this time. You can. Say whatever nice things you can muster at that point, but framing it as a political disagreement gets you out of a lot of the worst of it I feel. I don't know your mother so perhaps she would take the disagreement more personally than I imagine, but it feels a tactful way to keep it away from your daughter without telling her she is an awful human being. State you disagree and decline to get into a deep discussion about the political messaging beyond that.

    This. Empty pleasantries to make sure everyone feels ok is a huge, immature mistake. Be honest and hope everyone involved can be an adult about it.

    Evermourn
  • Romantic UndeadRomantic Undead Registered User regular
    Hi guys, got an update:

    So yesterday was my daughter's (who's 5, by the way) Christmas pageant. Nana (my mom) wanted to come. On the way, my wife and I talked about the situation mainly to make sure we were on the same page. I told her about my post here and some of the responses I had received at the time. My wife grumbled a bit but generally came around to the idea that, at least for now, we should try and spare my mom's feelings, and deal with any ramifications of her attempting to read her story to Mini-Dead when and if it comes.

    We get to Mini-Dead's school, and Nana arrives, all smiles, happy to see us and excited to see Mini-Dead. Before the pageant starts, she wants to tell us some good news:
    - She has just come back from the local library, who has agreed to put up 2 copies of her book for lending

    She is tickled pink. My wife and I share a glance before we both say "oh, good for you! You must be thrilled!". I then try and probe a bit:

    "So, do you know if they read it?"
    "Oh yes, they told me they review all books they stock before putting them up!"
    My wife and I exchange a look again before my mom continues:
    "Next week I'm heading to [hometown] to visit family. I have copies for everyone, and I plan on stopping by the library there as well! I have to admit, I was nervous because I know the "princess" chapter is a bit political (she actually said this)"

    So she's going on a full-on home-grown book tour. No backlash yet from any friends and family, because, for all I know, most of my family may, in fact, agree with her views or, at the very least, consider them to be innocuous. I'm slowly coming to the realization that I may be in a black sheep situation here.

    So yeah, this thing is getting bigger than me, so at this point, I'm thinking I'll just have to buckle down and focus on impressing my own values on Mini-dead with the hopes that she'll be equipped with enough critical thinking skills to eventually be able to properly contextualize Nana's thoughts on the matter if and when the time comes.

    @bowen : She totally thinks like this. As I stated upthread, we've had conversations on the topic in the past. She's proposed this idea before during dinner conversation and, at that time, I remember even telling her: "Mom, you know that that idea has been tried before, multiple times, right? We call them ghettos". Her response was basically "Oh, well those places were just not run properly. Given proper attention, I think this idea could really work". For the sake of politeness, I did not press her further on the topic.

    @dispatch.o : She has told me that her goal is to pull from her own real-life experience to present stories to "entertain and educate" and give kids "things to think about as they work their way through life". This is reflected in the fact that some of the stories are written in a very dry, almost textbook-like, style.

    For example, one of the stories is about my sister, who is a Flight Attendant. The story stars my daughter as a kid reporter who is interviewing her. The fictionalized version of my sister then goes on to give an extremely detailed account of her day-to-day as a flight attendant, including details such a how well it pays and how much time it takes. The book is absolutely meant to be an educational tool.

    Which reminds me. Another one of the stories is an account of my daughter's birth. Mini-dead's birth was actually pretty crazy (long story short: she was born in our upstairs bathroom, and not by design). A while ago, my mom asked my wife and me if it was ok for her to tell our story. At the time, we agreed, because it is a pretty crazy story, so why not?

    However, it turns out that the story goes into great detail about my wife's reproduction system, and what was going on in her body the day Mini-dead was born. Last night, my wife told me: "You know, I didn't mind your mom writing that story at first, but I didn't think she was going to be writing about my vagina!"

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yeesh.

    Now I know why publishers didn't want to touch the book though.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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  • RendRend Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    Well, weirdly that seems to both complicate AND simplify things, on different axes.

    For what it's worth I know what it's like to live with a mostly conservative extended family. And, when the time comes for me to finally talk about faith and religion, that shit is going to be extremely fraught.

    I just hope your mom doesn't continue to push her luck on this sort of influence.

    Rend on
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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    Appreciate the update and context.

    She's crossing lines I wouldn't be comfortable with in a public setting. If she has a fragile sense of self confidence I can see why you'd hesitate to bring things to a confrontation.

    Consider she will have one eventually with someone, and possibly come to you for validation. That's also a difficult position to be in. Since she's escalated this thing I feel like you need to talk to her in private at least.

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  • Romantic UndeadRomantic Undead Registered User regular
    Rend wrote: »
    Well, weirdly that seems to both complicate AND simplify things, on different axes.

    For what it's worth I know what it's like to live with a mostly conservative extended family. And, when the time comes for me to finally talk about faith and religion, that shit is going to be extremely fraught.

    I just hope your mom doesn't continue to push her luck on this sort of influence.

    What's interesting here is that my mom is decidedly not conservative across the board. She broadly supports the idea of an expanded social security net (it's just that she thinks her immigrant cities should be included as one of them), has shown no signs of homophobia (quote: "love is love, who cares who it's for") and takes no issue with my apostasy (unlike my father, with whom I simply cannot have religious discussions with. He's convinced I'm just going through a phase and that I will come around some day). It's really just this one issue that she feels strongly about, and I honestly believe it's one born of a corrupted sense of pity than anything else. ("Those poor immigrants, they just haven't been taught how to live yet").

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  • RiboflavinRiboflavin Registered User regular
    Compliment the effort not the content.

    "it's good that you can follow through and get a book written, I bet that took alot of effort"
    "Congrats on completing one of your dreams"

  • SCREECH OF THE FARGSCREECH OF THE FARG #1 PARROTHEAD margaritavilleRegistered User regular
    write a book about this experience and have it achieve moderate niche success, establishing dominance over your mother.

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  • PsykomaPsykoma Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    I absolutely wouldn't equate a 3 year old's shitty art with an adult lionizing concentration camps for immigrants.

    I would talk to her, try and get through again how wildly disturbing the idea is, especially that she's trying to use it as an educational tool.
    Like yeah given how dry you've described it, it's probably not going to influence any kids, but to support it because you don't think it'll be effective despite its message is a massive eyebrow raiser for me.

    I don't personally think you can really "balance out" a book written by a kids' grandmother with any amount of books written by strangers.

    Psykoma on
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  • LovelyLovely Registered User regular
    edited December 2019
    The mix of fantasy ala concentration mixed with overly specific non-fiction child birth seems like an.... odd literary decision for a single book. You know, theming wise.

    EDIT- Also, you should totally write a sequel to the princess novel where things don't work out as planned and the immigrants rise up against the monarchist oppressors!
    Have the princess renounce her crown and join in with the revolution.

    EDIT2- NO WAIT. The original ghetto-creating princess was actually the REAL princess' evil doppelganger! Created by a wizard to sow strife in the kingdom! The real princess escapes her captivity and vows to set things right.

    Lovely on
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  • Romantic UndeadRomantic Undead Registered User regular
    Lovely wrote: »
    The mix of fantasy ala concentration mixed with overly specific non-fiction child birth seems like an.... odd literary decision for a single book. You know, theming wise.

    EDIT- Also, you should totally write a sequel to the princess novel where things don't work out as planned and the immigrants rise up against the monarchist oppressors!
    Have the princess renounce her crown and join in with the revolution.

    EDIT2- NO WAIT. The original ghetto-creating princess was actually the REAL princess' evil doppelganger! Created by a wizard to sow strife in the kingdom! The real princess escapes her captivity and vows to set things right.

    Oh my god I actually kind of love this, and so would my wife. It provides a counter-narrative without risking demonizing my mother nor my fictionalized niece.

    I'm gonna give this some serious thought. I've long wanted to write. This might be just the inspiration I need!

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  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    On the bright side, this book sounds awful so the odds of the audience extending beyond your family is pretty slim.

    By the time your daughter is able to contextualize any of this to real-world stuff, she probably will not be interested in reading it. At some point is she going to have to learn the "not everything Grandma believes is right" lesson, but she probably isn't ready for it at 5.

  • PeenPeen tw1tch0rz occasionallyRegistered User regular
    As a librarian myself I'd like to issue a mild "shame on you" to the local library, if in fact they've decided to carry two copies of that book. I understand the desire to support local authors but you've still got to have some standards and most self-published books don't make the cut, regardless of who wrote them or what the subject is.

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  • Romantic UndeadRomantic Undead Registered User regular
    And now I find out she's sent an email to the local school board to peddle her book to them. She's targeting grades 3-4-5-6

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    And now I find out she's sent an email to the local school board to peddle her book to them. She's targeting grades 3-4-5-6

    I think it's obviously important to you that this is happening, even if you frame it as concern for your own child. If you want to intervene you'd be doing so ethically in my opinion.

    You can love your mom and think she has a horrible opinion.

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Well, at least she took your advice to publish and market it herself to heart!

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  • NorgothNorgoth cardiffRegistered User regular
    edited December 2019
    Peen wrote: »
    As a librarian myself I'd like to issue a mild "shame on you" to the local library, if in fact they've decided to carry two copies of that book. I understand the desire to support local authors but you've still got to have some standards and most self-published books don't make the cut, regardless of who wrote them or what the subject is.

    I'm a self-published author, and I kind of agree. The amazing thing about self-publishing is that anyone can get their book out there. The downside is that anyone can get their book out there. There are some absolute gems available, but there's also a lot of crap to wade through.

    Norgoth on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2019
    And now I find out she's sent an email to the local school board to peddle her book to them. She's targeting grades 3-4-5-6

    wait whaaaat haha lol no that's entirely different and terrible

    If it's just not wanting to hurt your mom's feelings over a story your kid is unlikely to take anything away from at this stage that's... whatever.

    Think of all those things you've talked about aimed at 8-12 year olds. You have grounds to emphatically veto this with "no you cannot promote a book to a local school board this way that contains this much reference to my wife's vagina. No you cannot do that" alone, before you even get into 'ghettos are for them actually.' At least from the standpoint of a veto possibly carrying more weight with her since she clearly has views about ghettos she isn't letting go of.

    There's a solid chance that you aren't the black sheep over this, that others either don't see the parallels or don't want to hurt her feelings either. Either way... I know no one wants to hurt her feelings but it might be time to say something.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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  • SmrtnikSmrtnik job boli zub Registered User regular
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    ceres wrote: »
    Read her your mom's book and then follow it up with "Everybody Poops" and I guarantee you she won't remember what the first one was.

    I Need A New Butt is another great follow up.

    If my 4yo knew about Nobel Prize she'd nominate I Need A New Butt for one.

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    Satanic JesusShadowfire
  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    Peen wrote: »
    As a librarian myself I'd like to issue a mild "shame on you" to the local library, if in fact they've decided to carry two copies of that book. I understand the desire to support local authors but you've still got to have some standards and most self-published books don't make the cut, regardless of who wrote them or what the subject is.

    I'm hoping that this goes to the local Friends group so they can sell it for peanuts, or better yet, chuck them.

    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
    Peen
  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON IndiaRegistered User regular
    Maybe you can get together with some other people in a similar position and you can all send your parents to an isolated commune where they'll have to live until they can learn your values.

    ceresdispatch.oSkeithCelestialBadgerCambiataElvenshaeBloodySlothMoridin889ShadowfireadmanbSiska38thDoeZilla360Stabbity StyleHeirAridholKristmas KthulhuH3KnucklesNo-Quarter
  • TNTrooperTNTrooper Registered User regular
    Maybe you can get together with some other people in a similar position and you can all send your parents to an isolated commune where they'll have to live until they can learn your values.

    Isn't that just a retirement home?

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  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    You should be an adult and tell your also adult mother that you don't like the book. Not only are you stringing her along by not saying anything, you risk her getting hurt in the long run because no one will tell your mom that they don't want to read her weird and uncomfortable kids book.

    tastydonutsBahamutZEROPsykomaSkeithZilla360
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Also I guess let that be a lesson to you that when someone tells you they're going to publish a book about you and/or your family read it before it goes to print.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    tastydonutsAldoMichaelLCT-boltBahamutZEROCambiataElvenshaeSkeith38thDoeZilla360Stabbity StyleEvermournKristmas Kthulhu
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