What kind of sales strategy allows a title of a book to inhibit sales?
You may be all in favor of “telling it like it is,” but shouldn’t that be confined to the pages inside, and not on the spine?
I remember delivering a synopsis several years ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis of a book entitled The No Asshole Rule by Dr. Robert Sutton (Business Plus, 2007) . It actually came from an article the author wrote for the Harvard Business Review. It is the correct term. The book, and all of its advice, was clearly about one of them. I always thought the book was really good. It’s not the kind of title, however, you would carry with you during the day, or display on your shelf. You probably wouldn’t want people to know you are reading it. The Park City Club, where we hold the First Friday Book Synopsis, would not even publish the title in its advance publicity in its monthly magazine. People asked me in advance how I would handle the term. I said, I would only say, “A_H_,” and hope I would not slip up. I never did, especially at client sites, and I never have. That took concentration and focus. Why a good book would deliberately cut sales because of an unsavory title is strange to me.
So, here’s another one, released on March 3, 2015. It’s called Moody Bitches, by Dr. Judy Holland (Penguin Press). It’s all about what happens to women when they go off their medications. Do you really want to carry that book around with you?
These aren’t the only ones. I can’t possibly reproduce these titles here. We would lose our license. But, if you will click here, you will see 40 more titles and book covers that will make you wonder how the titles ever got through the planning stage by any marketing professionals. I have to admit that as I went through this site, I gasped and laughed. You will too.
But, how does this happen? Why deliberately inhibit sales by offending consumers, or making them afraid to show others they own the book?
I have to admit this is one reason to read a book on your tablet or phone. No one knows what you’re reading!
Overall, deliberately cutting sales so you can have an offending title is not too bright of an idea in my view.
It is one of the clearest principles. If you don’t know what to do with your next hour, you will waste your next hour.
David Allen, in Getting Things Done, wrote of the power of the Next Action Folder. He stated that whenever you are finished with your current action, your now just completed former action, you need to start on your next action. So, always have a next action folder, with your next, next action, immediately accessible. (Which means, of course, that you have learned to put future next actions in their proper place in your Next Action Folder).
Now, as I’m reading Bold: How to Go Big, create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, I get reinforcement for the power of this principle. (I’m presenting my synopsis of Bold at next Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis – April 3).
The book builds on the ideas of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and writes of the power of three critical psychological triggers: clear goals, immediate feedback, and the challenge/skills ratio. From the book:
Clear goals, our first psychological trigger, tells us where and when to put our attention. They are different than the high, hard problems of big goals. Those big goals refer to overarching passions: feeding the hungry, opening the space frontier. Clear goals, meanwhile, concern all the baby steps it’s going to take to achieve those big goals… When goals are clear, the mind doesn’t have to wonder about what to do or what to do next – it already knows. Thus concentration tightens…
The emphasis falls on clear, not goals.
Here’s what I know. Though I’ve read David Allen’s book, and presented that synopsis numerous timers, I have not mastered the step. I’ve spent too many minutes of too many days without my clear goals delineated in my next action folder. I need to get much better at keeping that next action folder, with those very clear goals, up-to-the-minute-ready, and always at the ready.
How about you?
He is certainly one of the great writers of our time. Truman (Simon & Schuster, 1992) is a terrific and comprehensive biography of America’s favorite autocratic president. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 2011) makes you want to book a flight and get in a time machine to travel backwards.
There have been plenty of books about the Wright Brothers, and their escapades with the flying machine. But, something tells me that in McCullough’s book, we will experience that familiar story in a way that no one else has provided it.
McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer prize winner. He also wrote books about John Adams and Albert Einstein. He weaves details in a storybook fashion that few writers can copy. I found this positive quote about him on the web site for the National Endowment for the Humanities, of which he was a 2003 Jefferson lecturer: “David McCullough throws himself into the research of his subjects, tracing the roads they traveled, reading the books they read, and seeing the homes they lived in. His diligence pays off in detailed and engaging narratives.”
We are just under two months away from its release, and his new book is already # 1 on the Amazon.com best-selling list in scientists, aerospace, and history. Overall, it is # 303 in book sales – two months away!
And, just for credibility, my order for the book is in the queue.
We may see this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis. That all depends upon how “businessy” the book turns out to be.
In the meantime, May 15 cannot come soon enough.
Yes, you all know all this already…
The annual physical is a bother – but critical. I just had mine. My weight is (back) up. Not at its highest, but not where it needs to be. My other vitals seem ok – won’t know for sure until the blood work comes back.
I got the usual nicely worded, empathetic counsel from my doctor. It boils down to this: move more, eat less ice cream. (If you can find a doctor who says it is best to sit still all day, and eat lots of ice cream every night, please give me his/her name).
Now, with the coming health apps revolution, we are about to be able to have pretty constant vital signs readings and feedback. We will know much more about our actual health pretty much on a constant basis.
And, at work, we experience the same challenge. If an annual physical kind of gets us back on course, then maybe a perpetual feedback loop for our work life will help us keep on course much better than before…
The ritual of the annual physical reminds me of some pretty basic principles, fully transferable to the work context. The big one is this — what you don’t pay attention to does not get done. Monitor; measure; pay attention! Monitor your vital signs at work…
For your own productivity:
- are you as productive as you could be, every hour of every work day?
- are you focused – and maintaining that focus?
- are you keeping in touch with key people?
- are you getting better; building skills; becoming more…more knowledgeable, more collaborative, more attentive, more effective at listening?
For your organization:
- do you have the best strategy?
- have you built effective teams?
- are you improving your customer experience?
- are you staying ahead of the curve with your innovation challenges?
You can add other important questions to these. The list can be a long one… But this much I know. Checking your organizational health, like checking your personal health, is a constant need, and serves as a constant, needed corrective.
Just a brief update — about a day ago, we had our 900,000th page view on our blog (for the complete history of our blog).
We’ve not a “big” blog, but day after day, we provide a few thoughts on good business books, books on social justice, other books, business issues (focusing on how to be successful in your business pursuits). For those of you who read us regularly, we thank you.
Bernhard Schroeder is the Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Programs and oversees all of the undergraduate and graduate experiential entrepreneurship programs on the San Diego State University campus. He also has responsibility for the Center’s marketing and outreach on both the SDSU campus and in the San Diego community. He is a part-time Clinical Faculty, Entrepreneurship teaching several entrepreneurship course including Creativity and Innovation.
Prior to moving to San Diego, Bernhard was a Senior Partner in the worlds’ largest integrated marketing communications agency, CKS Partners, which in 1998 had offices in over 30 countries, more than 10,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Bernhard joined CKS in 1991 and working with the other four partners, grew the firm to almost $40 million in revenue by 1995 and led CKS to a successful IPO that same year.
He has experience working with Fortune 100 firms like Apple, Nike, General Motors, American Express, Mercedes Benz, Kellogg’s and others as well as start-up companies. He was involved in the initial branding and marketing launches for startup companies Yahoo! and Amazon. Today, he mentors more than 20 founders of startup companies in San Diego with yearly revenue ranging from $400,000 to more than ten million.
His book, Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now, was published by AMACOM (February 2015).
Here is an excerpt from part 1 of my interview of Bern.
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Morris: Before discussing Fail Fast or Win Big, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Schroeder: Two people had a huge impact on my personal growth. The first was my father who instilled in me the notion of working to get what you want. He worked two jobs for 14 years to put five kids through private school. Never saw him much in those years but we had an amazing relationship after he retired. So, I started working and making money at the age of 11 and I thought that was completely normal.
The other person who I never thought would have an impact on my life but did was my aunt. Looking back, my aunt was just a good average person who was fun to be around but no one that really stood out in my family. That all changed one day. I was 19 at the time, full of piss and vinegar trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was definitely struggling trying to determine how one laid out their life, like it was a play or something. I was told by my father that my aunt was dying. Just like that. Stomach pains for a few weeks, then the diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Three weeks to live. Having never experienced death in the family, I could not get my head around the concept of death. My aunt was only 38, looking amazingly healthy and was going to die. She had told my father she wanted to meet with me. My fear and apprehension was, “What do you say to someone who is dying?”
I met her in a hospice room at the hospital. When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the bed with a serious mound of paper all around her. I asked her, “What are you doing?” She replied, “I am organizing my life so as not to be a bother when I am dead.” For the next three hours, we talked about life. My life. Her life. And she started to tell me about all the things she had never done or had regretted. She sacrificed for the family and lost the love of her life (my aunt had never married). I can almost picture her sitting on the bed and talking to me as she said,” Bern, no matter what you do with your life, don’t ever have regrets. Don’t ever settle for something you don’t agree with. And live life as if you were going to die tomorrow.” That day when I left, I don’t think I realized what had just happened. But her words would come to define the way I lived my life. My personal life and entire career was defined by this statement,” I will not spend one day being in a place where I don’t feel I belong.” And that is exactly the way I have lived my life.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Schroeder: Three mentors have had the most impact in my professional development. The first mentor was in my very first marketing job. I did not realize it at the time because if you have never been mentored before, you really don’t know it is happening (being mentored). The key element is trust. We usually don’t build a quick trusting relationship with our boss. But looking back, he leaned in…he nurtured me, pushed me, scolded me and praised me. In the two years I worked for him, I received five years of experience and advice. He actually created a solid platform for my entire career.
The second person was a few years later and he was a crusty kind of curmudgeon guy we brought in from Xerox. Within about two weeks of meeting him (I reported to him), he pulled me into his office and flatly stated that I was terrible at two things: I did not know how to listen, and I really did not know how to sell. Now, you have to realize in just three years at this marketing agency, I had risen from entry level employee to vice president. So, I thought to myself “this guy is full of shit.” But over the next 3-4 months, he actually proved to me that I really did not listen and I was really not accomplished at the art of selling or as he liked to put it, the art of getting people to buy from you.
He did two things that changed my professional life. The first thing he did was to send me to a “Spin Selling” seminar in San Francisco which I did not want to attend. The three-day sales seminar changed my outlook on my personal and professional life. I learned the skillset of listening. I learned the difference between what people wanted and what they needed. I learned personality types and how to read a room. It was amazing. The second thing he did was simple. He honed my ability to trust my instincts. This is a really hard skill “or feeling” to develop. You can’t really see it. Can’t really take a class or seminar in instinct. Over the next two years, after every client or prospect meeting, he would ask me to deconstruct the meeting. What was “really” going on in the meeting, who were the decision makers, what did they really want and so on. Then, based on my deconstruction and thoughts, he would give me feedback on where I was spot on and where I was completely off and why. Again, you don’t really see or understand it when you are going through personal development in a deep way but looking back, it was huge.
The third person taught me about the power of teams. Up until I met my third mentor, I thought that all my accomplishments to date were based on me. That is, my success was singly determined by me and what I could accomplish. I had been on pretty fast track since coming out of school late (undergraduate at 27 years of age) and I was motivated to move aggressively in building my career. Took on risky promotions and difficult clients and was successful. When I met this person who would become my third mentor, I did not really see him as even being a potential mentor. First, I felt I was his peer. We were both about the same age, both had accomplished a lot and were now partners in building what would become a billion dollar company. But early in my relationship with him, he pulled me aside and in a very nonchalant conversation told me two things: I was not a strategic thinker and I absolutely did not know how to build teams of people that would go “to war” for me. I thought about that. Over the next two years, he taught me how to be real with people. How to nurture and care for the talented stars working for me. I learned the art of management where everybody wins. The other thing he taught me about strategy was perspective. To use a military analogy, I was always the lieutenant or captain building and rapidly executing marketing campaigns. But I was not the general, sitting on the hill or further away, who was looking way beyond the battle…looking at the how the entire war would be waged. I learned an immense amount of strategic perspective from him that lifted me to a new level of branding and marketing strategy. One that allowed me to clearly create brand and marketing strategies for my future clients (like Amazon and Yahoo!) with a very strategic plan, strong on tactics but amazing on marketplace strategy.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Schroeder: It’s hard to identify a turning point or epiphany in one’s life unless it’s something cathartic. Something that shakes or even defines your core. I would have to say, looking back, it was my aunt’s death. Her calmly talking to me as she was dying about never having regrets really formed the basis of how I would view life. I did it my way or the highway. I had people tell me, “ I don’t really like you…but you are one of the sharpest marketing people I have ever met and I respect you.” And seriously, all I wanted was to be respected. I did not really care if people liked me. Never have. The other part of what has become my mantra is I firmly believe no one was born to do anything…so what will you do? I have crafted my career around constantly challenging myself and enjoying life. I am not working on the cure for aids or cancer, so trust me, I have a perspective on what’s important in life. Sell another car or book, great. But don’t get hung up on that. I have wanted to make impacts and bring people along for the ride. I still stay in touch with people I hired and mentored in the mid 90’s. I mentor more than 20 founders of companies in San Diego. I reach thousands of students on the SDSU campus with messages of entrepreneurship, passion and doing what you want to do. It’s the most fun I have ever had.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Schroeder: This is a tough question, especially since I work on a university campus. I look back and view my formal education as a necessary part of life to learn some core basics and learn how to become a good speaker and writer. I look at what impacted my life and formal education has played a very small role. My accomplishments have come from doing what I wanted to do that pushed me, really pushing the edge of marketing, mentorships and work/play experiences.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Schroeder: Okay, going to date myself here. I remember seeing A Wonderful Life several times and realized two things: I don’t want to be the hated banker guy and I do want to feel like I was important or loved enough to be missed. I also wanted to care about people. Second movie was Dead Poets Society. I wanted to live carpe diem…to seize every day. I did not want to have a meaningless professional career. I did not want a job. I did not want to settle or conform. I did not want to do what other people wanted me to do. I did not want to live through other people expectations. The third movie was Wall Street. I both wanted and did not want to be Charlie Sheen. I wanted success to come from hard work but not from cheating. I never wanted to compromise my integrity or ethics. Maybe walk up to that line but not cross it. The second thing, I knew I was going to be involved in growing or running a big company someday. I did not want to be Gordon Gecko. I did not want to be that guy that ruined people’s lives for money. Maybe that’s why still today, I carry a slight disdain for some venture capitalists. I encourage all the founders I mentor to bootstrap and eat top ramen so as to preserve their equity for as long as possible so that they can maintain control of their companies should they ever have to take on investors.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Schroeder: Tough question. What do I say to sound pithy here? As I look back to the books I read in my formative years, I think of Papillion, The Outsiders, Catch-22, The Godfather and a few others. I think the one book that impacted me with its realism and symbolism was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. If you have read this book or seen the movie, you are not supposed to like Randle Patrick McMurphy. But the more I read the book, I saw Randle as one of the few sane people in the book. My takeaway from the book relating to business was life is crazy, don’t try and completely predict it. Whatever your situation, make the best of it and change it if you can. And don’t ever conform in your beliefs or who you are…no one really cares anyway especially in business. And if you can befriend people on your journey, do so. They could be the part of your professional life that matters most. I don’t really remember, in a fond way, all the billions of dollars of products or services I helped sell in my career. I do remember the people, good or slightly crazy.
* * *
To read all of Part 1, please click here.
Bern cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
His website link
Lavin Entrepreneurship Center link
Fail Fast or Win Big Amazon link
TEDx Encinitas video link
StartUp Circle video link
Maybe you never thought violence had a future. It’s been drilled into us since we were very young that violence was awful, even immoral or unethical. We saw role modeling of famous non-violent demonstrations from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and throughout history, many passive rather than aggressive reactions to perceived unfavorable change.
However, this new best-seller says differently. The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones – Confronting a New Age of Threat (Basic Books, 2015) paints a grim picture of a future filled with fear, and suggesting that the role of government in protecting us must change.
The authors, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, are highly qualified to expand upon their thesis.
From the Brookings Institution web site, Wittes is listed as “a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and is the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, which is devoted to sober and serious discussion of “Hard National Security Choices,” and is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and Law. He is the author of Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo, published in November 2011, co-editor of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change, published in December 2011, and editor of Campaign 2012: Twelve Independent Ideas for Improving American Public Policy (Brookings Institution Press, May 2012). He is also writing a book on data and technology proliferation and their implications for security. He is the author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror, published in June 2008 by The Penguin Press, and the editor of the 2009 Brookings book, Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform.”
From the Harvard University Law School website, Blum is labeled as “the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School, specializing in public international law, international negotiations, the law of armed conflict, and counterterrorism. She is also the Co-Director of the HLS-Brookings Project on Law and Security and a member of the Program on Negotiation Executive Board. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in the fall of 2005, Blum served for seven years as a Senior Legal Advisor in the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General’s Corps in the Israel Defense Forces, and for another year, as a Strategy Advisor to the Israeli National Security Council….Blum is the author of Islands of Agreement: Managing Enduring Armed Rivalries, (Harvard University Press, 2007), and of Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists (MIT Press, 2010) (co-authored with Philip Heymann and recipient of the Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize), as well as of journal articles in the fields of public international law and the law and morality of war.”
The book has hit the Amazon.com best-selling list with a furor. It is #1 in Intelligence and Espionage, and #2 in both Terrorism and Globalization. It will have to do more on some other best-seller lists in order for us to present this at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but since it was only released on March 10, 2015, we need to give it time. The book certainly has a chance for us to feature it one month at our program.
What is this book about? I found this interesting summary on KirkusReviews.com, stating that “the authors begin by articulating the many ways in which our fundamental connectedness, along with related advances in computing, biotechnology, 3-D printing, gene synthesis and other awe-inspiring technologies, could easily go awry or be turned to evil ends by lone sociopaths or wannabe jihadi: “Technologies that put destructive power traditionally confined to states in the hands of small groups and individuals have proliferated remarkably far,” write the authors. They initially focus on the destructive possibilities of technologies that have quickly become familiar, hypothesizing, for example, that ordinary people will soon be able to harass their rivals with tiny drones. In our transformative moment, “distance does not protect you…you are at once a figure of great power and great vulnerability.” Yet much of the authors’ discussion focuses on the changing nature of the state itself, weighing Hobbes’ concept of the “Leviathan” in the face of new and diverse threats. They first focus on how technology has “distributed” both vulnerability and the capacity to cause harm widely: “[W]e live in a fishbowl even as we exploit the fact that others live in a fishbowl too,” a principle embodied by recent “sextortion” cases. This inevitably forces a reconsideration of privacy and liberty on many levels, as revealed by events ranging from the Boston Marathon bombing investigation to hacker attacks on Israel and Iran. The authors raise fascinating questions but discuss them utilizing a formal legalistic framework. Ironically, they illuminate the coming age of “many-to-many” threats via a language few laypeople will find comprehensible.”
Wow! That is eye-opening. Did you notice the spider on the cover? In Matt Welch‘s review of the book, he notes “Imagine a future in which a competitor assassinates you via a robotic spider. That’s one way to see new technology’s potential.” Read his full review by clicking here.
I wonder how many readers will remain open-minded to the grim possibility of a future like this. Regardless, I don’t think we can ignore it.
We’re less than a month away from the release of Jack and Suzy Welch‘s newest work, The Real Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career (Harper Business, 2015). It is a certain best-seller, and pre-orders for the book are rocking the online outlets. Considering their personal backgrounds, perhaps you join me in being perplexed that even before its release, the book ranks #11 in the Amazon.com best-selling list in Business Ethics.
“Say what?” If you don’t know the story, here is a brief account. Suffice it to say that much more detail is available to you through the Internet. Jack’s second wife, Jane Beasley, found out about an affair between Suzy Wetlaufer and Welch. At the time, Suzy was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review. Beasley delivered this information to the publication, and Wetlaufer was forced to resign in early 2002 after admitting to having been involved in an affair with Welch while preparing an interview with him for HBR. Personal and professional ethics? This did not turn out too badly for Beasley. While Welch had crafted a prenupital agreement, she had insisted on a ten-year time limit for its enforceability, and therefore, left the marriage with around $180 million of Welch’s money. That interview was never published. Suzy and Jack married in 2004.
This is not their first co-authored book. Randy Mayeux presented their first one, Winning (Harper Business, 2005) at the First Friday Book Synopsis. It reached # 1 on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal business best-selling lists. We did not present their next co-authored work, Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today (Harper Business, 2006).
They both have another single-authored book. Randy presented a synopsis of Jack: Straight from the Gut (Business Plus, 2003). In 2010, Suzy wrote 10-10-10: A Fast and Powerful Way to Get Unstuck in Love, at Work, and with Your Family (Scribner). Randy gave that synopsis to several of our Creative Communication Network clients. I remember that audiences we delivered that synopsis to were not exactly thrilled at the quality of information transferred. In fact, at the Fort Worth Club, our event planner remarked that she wished she would have selected another book. Maybe her reputation backfired on that one. Of course, she didn’t write that one way to get unstuck is to have an affair with a famous married man. It certainly worked for her.
Note that both of these authors are very competent and successful. History will likely write Jack as the most successful CEO in American history. His style and substance led General Electric to a fast and furious climb to the top of elite and powerful businesses. All the labels, such as “Neutron Jack,” are applicable. His decisions were profound and effective. And, he believed in lifelong learning and professional development, even teaching courses on-site at the GE Learning Center. Many CEO’s don’t even know their company has a learning center, let alone take the time to go teach in it. Suzy’s role at one of the most prestigious business publications gave her strong credibility, as did her work experience at Bain.
Considering their reputation, most likely, this one will also fly to the top. It is not out of the question that you might hear a synopsis of this at our event. In fact, many of our regular attendees may push us very hard to present it. It will be exciting to see what the sub-topics will be from the Table of Contents. Only time will tell whether this one is heavier on style than substance. The title alone is appealing.
But, ethics? Is this really the best resource?
5 Musts for Successful Customer Interactions – (Before You Provide Customer Service, You have Customer Interactions)
So, as you prepare to provide that excellent customer service, that superior customer experience that you intend, you have to first have successful interactions with that customer.
Getting this right is crucially, critically important.
Here are five musts for successful customer interactions:
#1 – Make sure you listen – listen really, really well.
- “I think this is what you are telling me about what matters most to you. Have I got that right?”
#2 – Make sure they trust you.
- They have to trust your competence.
- They have to trust your intent of goodwill (You really do want the best for them).
#3 – Make sure they recognize your value.
- For example: “Yes, we may cost a little more, up front. But our clients tell us, and others, over and over again – it’s better to get it right than to pay, sometimes more than once or twice, for getting it less-than-right.”
#4 – Make sure you are easy to work with – no hassles!
- “I’ll/we’ll take care of that for you…”
(and, #5 – Learn to respond well — while never “sounding canned”).
Here they are again:
#1 – Make sure you listen – listen really, really well.
#2 – Make sure they trust you.
#3 – Make sure they recognize your value.
#4 – Make sure you are easy to work with – no hassles!
(and, #5 – Learn to respond well — while never “sounding canned”).
I suspect this is not an exhaustive list. What would you add to your “musts” list for successful customer interaction?
(Though it is not a direct “connection,” this post was partly prompted by my reflections on the excellent book Negotiating At Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains by Deborah M. Kolb and Jessica L. Porter).
I was fascinated when I received word of a book by Jan Jarboe Russell entitled The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II (Scribner, 2015).
Were you aware of what happened? Have you ever heard of Crystal City, Texas? See the map below.
I found this review from Amazon.com:
The dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families—many US citizens—were incarcerated. From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during World War II, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called “quiet passage.” During the course of the war, hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City, including their American-born children, were exchanged for other more important Americans—diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, physicians, and missionaries—behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.
Focusing her story on two American-born teenage girls who were interned, author Jan Jarboe Russell uncovers the details of their years spent in the camp; the struggles of their fathers; their families’ subsequent journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan; and their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States, transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists. Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp, from the ten-foot high security fence to the armed guards, daily roll call, and censored mail, have never been told. Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history that has long been kept quiet, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR’s tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.
Who is Jan Jarboe Russell, and why did she write this book? She is a Texan, through and through. Her home town is the same as Randy Mayeux, who contributes to this blog. This is her third book, and she is a frequent contributor to Texas Monthly magazine. You can read about her on her web site by clicking here. Here is an excerpt:
Jan Jarboe Russell was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in small towns in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Her father was a minister of music in numerous Southern Baptist churches and later had a second career as a social worker. Her mother was an elementary school teacher. Books and music were constants in her household. At sixteen-years-old she landed a part-time job at the weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Advocate, in her hometown and settled on a career as a journalist and author.
She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After graduation, she worked briefly as a reporter for the Savannah Morning News, and in 1973 became a political reporter at The San Antonio Light. In 1976, she joined the Hearst Bureau in Washington, D.C. where she focused on Texas politics.
Although this book did make the New York Times best-seller list, it does not fit our content requirements for the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, so you won’t see us present it there. But, if you love books, and if you may have overlooked this part of Texas history, it seems like a must-read.