The Literary Review 60th Anniversary Issue!

Back before The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault was even an idea, I was submitting many of the little essays that made it into that book to magazines and journals. Many of them were published (thankfully). 

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The Literary Review was kind enough to publish three of my essays in a single issue. The issue was called "Cry Baby" and eventually a couple essays from that issue were translated and published in a Czech magazine. (I had no idea until after they were already translated and the magazine was printed, but when I contacted them about it, they sent me a couple copies and got me in touch with the translator and it was fine.)

A couple days ago when I walked down to my mailbox to grab all the junk mail, I noticed a letter from The Literary Review which I just assumed was one of those subscription renewal notices that  I get all the time. I opened it and read it and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were asking if I would be interested in letting them include one of the essays from The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault in their 60th anniversary issue. 

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This means so much to me (and probably to Tim Johnston at Little Presque Books as well). I am obviously hoping to get more interviews and readings and reviews. All those things are extremely valuable to me as a writer; those are the ways my book gets attention, and a book needs attention if anyone is going to buy it. A book no one knows about is a book no one reads. So for The Literary Review  to ask to reprint one of my essays right now when I need all the help I can get to spread the word about this new book is a serious blessing.

This book would not exist without the encouragement and support of all the magazines out there who said yes to my work as I was in the middle of it. My success is also partly a result of all those magazines who said no to the work. Rejections drive me probably more than acceptances do. If no one ever told me no, then I would have little desire to work harder.

If you haven't grabbed a copy of The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault yet, then you can do so by clicking one of the buttons below. Tim and I are hard at work trying to get it onto the shelves at indie bookstores near you. 

Thank you all for your support in whatever form it has been in. 

It'll be on the shelf somewhere as soon as we can make it happen. Until then, your best way to get it is by clicking the buttons below:

 

 

See me at the READ Local! Author Fair Tomorrow.

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Tomorrow from 1:30 until 4:30 you can talk to me, buy a copy of The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault and meet a bunch of other local authors at the South Bend Public Library Main Branch in the Humphrey's room. Read more about the event on Facebook by following this link: READ Local! Author Event.

For those of you who already have a copy of my book, this is an opportunity for you to drop by the library and get it signed (for free, of course) and to ask me questions. "Why are there endnotes and why does this book have math equations that don't make any sense?"

And since the iPhone 8 came out today, you can take a picture with me and then make a super high resolution meme out of it that will cause instantaneous world-peace. 

I do not know when the next event like this will be that I can actually attend, so if you want to see me in person and buy a book, get one signed, or just talk to me for a few minutes with my full attention, this will be your best chance. You could try to FaceTime me like the random little kid did yesterday afternoon (and immediately hang up when you realize I am definitely not who you were trying to call), but why would you want to look at my face on a screen at that size? It's scary enough at its normal size. Also: I am going to shave for this. That's how important it is to me. Not my beard. The beard stays, but I will shave my neck. 

I would love to see some of you out there if only for a few minutes. Without readers, there wouldn't be much point in writing any of this stuff, and I am grateful to all of you who've reviewed my work in the past (or are in the process of reviewing it now), and I am thankful to all of you who've taken the time to contact me and let me know that you liked/loved the book. 

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I hope to see a few familiar faces there and hope to meet some new folks as well. I'm gonna be in this town for a long time, and this is one of the first major steps toward building an engaged literary community that I'm taking. I'm grateful the library selected me to be a part of this event, and I hope there are many more events like this in the future. Part of the battle I am fighting these days is one against ignorance, and in order to combat ignorance, we have to engage one another. Peaceful engagement is what I am trying to promote. Come talk to me. I'll be happy to do it.

And for those of you who still haven't purchased a copy of the new book who want to get one the new-fashioned way, click on the button below to buy it from your preferred store. See you tomorrow.

 

 

READ Local! Author Fair. Saturday from 1:30 to 4:30

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This Saturday from 1:30 until 4;30 p.m., I will be at the St. Joseph County Public Library in downtown South Bend to talk about my books, sell you copies directly, and to sign them (if you want them to be valued less than they are unsigned: kidding....) Also: The book is 14 dollars, and I can take payment through PayPal or cash. I don't think I'll have a card reader. 

I won't be the only author there, so even if you aren't interested in reading about the military, PTSD, anxiety, or overcoming hopelessness, come out and see what other authors in the South Bend area are writing and talk with them.

This won't be a reading, so you can drop in and out at anytime during the event without feeling like every one in the audience is judging you. It'll be fun; I promise. And maybe if you request my book from the library, then they can buy a copy and you can check it out. I have no idea if that's true. But it seems like it could be. Why not? 

Here is the book cover.

Here is the book cover.

I'll be sketching and chatting with folks the whole time. I do want to meet you because no writer can have a career without readers. Please come by and say hello. That means just as much as buying a book.

Here is the link to the event so that you can see what other authors are going to be in attendance: READ Local! Author Fair.

And in case you want a copy of the book but don't want to leave your house or can't, or if you have to work, you can get one from either of the two buttons below at any time. 

I'm looking forward to seeing as many of you as can make it. 

 

 

Buy The Red Book from me in person this Saturday!

A little promo poster for the book. NBD.

A little promo poster for the book. NBD.

The cover for The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault; designed by the almost always unspottable Timston Johnston. 

The cover for The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault; designed by the almost always unspottable Timston Johnston. 

This Saturday, September 23rd, I will be at the READ Local! author fair at the St. Joseph County Public library from 1:30 until 4:30 p.m. to meet and greet, sign books, and sell them to you. I'll have a stack of The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault, and I'll be wearing a smile most of the time.

There should be a good number of other local authors as well: potentially 30 of them, all hanging out in the Main Library "Humphrey's Room". 

For anyone who is looking for a way to support local writers in the South Bend and Mishawaka area, this is a good opportunity to come out and see what the writers living in the area are up to. It won't cost you anything unless you want it to.  

I'm not gonna hard sell anyone, but I will gladly tell you anything you want to know about my books and what I am working on and how many diapers I change on an average work day. 

If you really wish you could've made it to the library this Saturday but you have other plans (or you just don't want to go to a library), then you can always get a copy of my book the new-fashioned way by clicking on either of the buttons below.

I'll be sending more reminders and talking more about this as the week goes on. Alas, I am only one man. So any assistance I can get from you kind folks out there in the area with spreading the word is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much to all of you who've already bought a copy and for all of you who've taken the time to talk about the book with friends and family. I'd drink a beer with each and every one of you if it were possible.

WVU Creative Writing Interview!

Hey all. I was recently interviewed by Bryce Berkowitz from West Virginia University's MFA program. I started my undergrad degree there right after I was done with my enlistment in 2004, and The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault does talk a bit about my experience there. Not too much, but some. And I did learn a lot about being a civilian while I was there, living with my brother and playing in a band and then, thankfully, meeting Tina.

My answer to the question, "What would I say to prospective readers of this collection?" can be read by clicking on the button below.

Thanks to all who've shared pictures of yourself holding the book and who've shared the info about the book on social media (or the old fashioned way: told someone with you actual mouth.) If you want to know where you can get a copy, please just click on one of the two buttons here:

The book this all started with.

The book this all started with.

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OIF hits #49 for books on The Iraq War on Amazon!

Not Calvin. Please don't sue me, Bill Patterson. 

Not Calvin. Please don't sue me, Bill Patterson. 

Hey everyone. So The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault has been out for a day, and it has already made it's way into the top 50 of one of the charts on Amazon. These charts are crazy and shift on an hourly basis, but it is really wonderful to be able to say that The Red Book is officially a best-seller in books about The Iraq War category. I cannot thank you all enough for making this a reality. 

Yesterday many of my friends posted things to share my news with their circles of friends on various social media platforms and I am so grateful to all of you for helping out. I'm hard at work here still trying to get this interview finished. Frank Fucile wrote some super deep questions that have helped to remind me of why I wrote The Red Book in the first place. 

I am still trying to get George W. Bush's address so I can send him this portrait I painted of him and a copy of the book. I am only half kidding. (Or not at all if you have the address or know how to get the stuff to him.) 

Things are a little hectic cause we're doing house showings almost daily at this point, but once I can get my feet back under me, I am hoping to have some fun promo stuff to share.

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped spread the word. Please do not stop now. 

The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault Release Day!

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The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault is available today, and will be available forever more. I owe Timston Johnston at Little Presque Books an immense amount of thanks for all his belief in my work, for seeking me out and proposing we work on this book together, and for saying yes to a couple of the essays that appeared in Passages North long before this book had been conceived. I owe him thanks for believing in the work and for doing everything in his power to help me get it out into the world. Thanks, Tim. Now I never have to say it again.

If you (non-Tim's) care about anxiety, depression, war, defeating ignorance and cynicism, then this book that we've toiled over for years is for you, and as of today you can order a copy on amazon or at Barnes and Noble. Tim and I are working to get the book into Indie stores near you, so if you absolutely refuse to purchase it from either of these links, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. You could demand it at your favorite store since the customer is always right; that's what I hear anyway. You could also buy one directly from me at a reading.. That is, once set those up. I still have to move and sell this house and a bunch of other things: like take care of my daughters and spend time with my wife and dogs (and cats when they decide they want to remind me they exist.) But I hope to do at least a few of those locally and once Oprah hears about my book and makes it a huge deal nationally, then I'll go wherever I'm paid to travel. (Har har....)

Buy my book by clicking on the appropriate button below!

 

It's Labor Day and it is publication day, and I slept in till 5, so I am feeling pretty awesome. Thank you to everyone who's helped me get this book out in the world, and thank you to everyone who buys a copy or tells a friend to do so. And if anyone knows how I can get a copy of this to George W. Bush, Mike Tyson, or Tim O'Brien, please let me know. Or you could just buy it and send it to them on your own. That's fine with me too. 

George W. Bush paints portraits of veterans and now some veterans paint portraits of George W. Bush.

George W. Bush paints portraits of veterans and now some veterans paint portraits of George W. Bush.

 

 

The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault Pre-Order Today!

This is just a little sketch I'm working on.

This is just a little sketch I'm working on.

While talking with my sister-in-law earlier today, I was informed that pre-orders for The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault are open. So if you already know you want the book because you've been convinced of its immeasurable value by the words of all the writers that I've shared on the blog during the past two weeks, you can buy the book by clicking the button below:

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Things are crazy around here currently, but the truth is that is basically the norm anymore. But now that our house is on the market and this book is headed out in the world to do as much good as I hope it can, I'll set to work on all the supplemental things I had hoped to do before. And, maybe, I can get this comic book thing underway. Who knows, though? I may just retire and do watercolors for the rest of my days and watch my girls grow up and do more important and respectable things than I could ever hope to. That's probably fine too.

 

Dustin M . Hoffman on The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

Dustin M. Hoffman and I go way back and I have talked about that so many times that I am running out of stuff to say other than that I am extremely grateful to have him as a friend when things are going well for me and when things aren't going so well.

His book of stories One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist won The Prairie Schooner Book Prize recently and it is an amazing collection that talks about trades' people and their families and how they continue to live in America when the work dries up. The book is, of course, more than that, but I think framing it as a book about Americans who are hurting because they aren't given opportunities to get back on their feet is as good a way as any. 

You should buy and read his book. Do so by clicking the button below:

Here is a picture of Dustin from when he was painting stuff back before the housing crises began.

Here is a picture of Dustin from when he was painting stuff back before the housing crises began.

Now that you have bought and read Dustin's book, here is what he had to say about The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault.

Brandon Davis Jennings gives us the book about war we’ve been missing, one where war crumbles from neatly packaged binaries of heroes and villains, gore and glory, bravery and cowardice. Instead, Jennings shows us a uniquely human workaday perspective. War is a job with a desk and an ironed uniform, performed by a kid struggling to understand why Bin Laden wants to kill him. To combat dehumanizing bureaucracy, Brandon strips the essay form bare and reshapes it as a weapon of the heart aimed at rescuing identity and emotional vulnerability from the thrumming machines of war and masculinity. The Red Book is a masterpiece of humor and honesty and a voice so strong it spills into endnotes and splits in half. In these tightly connected essays, Jennings invites us to laugh at him, but instead we meditate with him on how we might make sense of an abusive world. Jennings’s essays are the gauze for so many of America’s wounds.
— Dustin M. Hoffman, author of One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

Hugh J. Martin on The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

Hugh and I met in Prague a hundred years ago. We're both OIF veterans and we both have the same birthdays and we were put in a suite together. This was, of course, by chance and had nothing to do with some divine power trying to bring like minds together so that they might combine their powers and use those powers to change the world for the better by writing books that they hoped young people might stumble across and learn from.

Hugh has a book of poems, The Stick Soldiers that I am a big fan of and have talked about publicly before (my review is right there on the page I linked where you can buy his book), and he is now working on a Ph. D. in Creative Nonfiction (English, really, but I know why he's there; look at the stats English departments: the students are not there to study Middle English these days.) Go buy Hugh's book. Read it. 

I appreciate Hugh taking the time to read my book of essays, a book that he played a big role in pushing me to finish. If not for him talking to me over all those PIvos in Prague, who knows what I might have been working on now?   

Here is a picture of Hugh when he was in a tank in Iraq.

Here is a picture of Hugh when he was in a tank in Iraq.

Here's what Hugh had to say about The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault:

There’s no direct connection,” Brandon Davis Jennings writes in one essay, “between the time I spent liberating Iraqis who never asked me to liberate them and my broken jaw.” Sentences like these—complicated with a dark irony, a boldness, a measured self-deprecation—ring, memorably, throughout his incredible collection, The Red Book (or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault), and navigate the often blurred boundaries between public and private life, especially in wars which, for Americans, mostly take place on screens. Jennings establishes a voice here—sometimes moving between second and even third person—that’s freshly distinct, unstoppably arresting. His sentences, often kinetic and full of character, sometimes carry a hyperbolic humor which, immediately, ingratiate us to their speaker: “I was in Saudi Arabia before Operation Iraqi Freedom began,” he writes in another essay, “so you can blame me for everything.” Although the explicit irony in a line like this is obvious, what’s not, I think, is the deeper, more subtle effect this seemingly straightforward declaration creates: an ambivalence—a good thing—where the reader is not sure whether to laugh or cry. This ambivalence, a kind of wavering, is one of the many strengths of this collection and shows a speaker who, wisely and beautifully, is self-reflexive, doubtful, uncertain, trying to reach closures related to personal and private memories and traumas though, more often than not, struggling and searching, as we all do. Jennings pushes far beyond tidy tropes and bromides related to topics such as war, soldiering, masculinity, sexual abuse, adolescence, among other things. Most of all, at his core, Jennings is a master storyteller. These are stories where one soldier breaks another soldier’s foot so he “wouldn’t have to go to the desert.” Stories where Jennings sits in Okinawa on a roof with a radio, and lots of rebar, as he guards satellites while imagining the many ways “Terror wants to kill Airman Jennings.” Stories where, while in Saudi Arabia, surrounded by thousands of Peeps marshmallow chicks sent in care packages, Jennings must “pulverize” top secret documents. Jennings elides, and sometimes—to our benefit—shatters many well-worn, often simplistic ideas about war, soldiering, boyhood; he develops an essayistic panorama from lived experience through a voice which is, to a reader, intimate, tangible, and, most of all, devastatingly and wonderfully human. “Airman Jennings is not one man,” he writes, “nor an army of one. He’s just a boy with a radio—and some rebar.” This is one of the most important and powerful essay collections in our post-9/11 America.
— Hugh J. Martin, author of The Stick Soldiers

Todd Kaneko on The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

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I met Todd Kaneko years ago at a Matthew Gavin Frank Potfarm reading (which is a book I 'highly' recommend: not sorry). We ate at some place in Grand Rapids, Michigan that was awesome and I ate some of the best Brussels sprouts I've ever had in my life. Todd was pretty quiet during the dinner and I don't know why for sure, but I assume it might have been because those were my old drinking days and I was probably overly obnoxious and awkward. Despite that, Todd didn't ignore me at AWP when I bumped into him and Adam Schuitema in Minneapolis. We walked to an Anne Valente reading in the basement of place and on our way down there, I talked super loud and potentially irritated the reader who was in the middle of his reading just before Anne's reading began. I think it was a little embarrassing for all of use when we exited the staircase and saw a few folks in the audience tossing evil eyes at us. Anyway, Todd writes poems that I never thought might exist. It's funny how for the longest time I didn't think poems could be funny until I had a teacher in undergrad say, "Poems can be funny,  you know?" Well Todd wrote a book called The Dead Wrestler Elegies and it is a book of poems (partly) about dead wrestlers. And I mean professional wrestlers like The Junkyard Dog or Bam Bam Bigelow or Andre the Giant. Before I met Todd I never thought poems could be about something like that. He proves that they can, and you should buy his book and you can do that by clicking this button below.

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Now that you've bought Todd's book and read it, you can read what he had to say about my book The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault that will be available on Labor Day.

In The Red Book (or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault), Brandon Davis Jennings assembles a landscape of memories, redactions and ruthless truths as he draws from a journal he kept as a teenager and his life as an airman serving in Saudi Arabia. “Real war stories aren’t about excitement and adventure—they’re about facts,” he says, and these aren’t just war stories. These essays are slyly evasive and playfully circuitous as they weave through fact and fiction and erasure, only arrive with an unwavering gaze on the ways that a man’s childhood homes, his boredom in the desert, and even the voices in his head can be as brutal as the battlefield. Jennings has written a bold, daring book that is unflinchingly about what it means to stay alive.
— W. Todd Kaneko, Author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies and Co-author of Poetry: A Writers Guide and Anthology

Brad Modlin on The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

I met Brad Modlin at BGSU back in my MFA days. Over the years he's called me on some of his various road trips to talk about all the silly things that are going on in the world and each time he's done that, I've been reminded of how full of life and humor he always seemed.

One time I wanted to include a Limerick in a story of mine as a joke. The story was titled "Sucks to be You" and the character was in South Korea during a war exercise. He was under a table wearing a gas mask and read: "Sucks to be you" scribbled on the underside of the table. Brad spent 45 minutes trying to get the scansion of the poem right. I was like, "Is it funny, though?" We'll never know because the Limerick is now lost on a hard drive I destroyed years ago.

Anyway. Brad recently had a book of poems selected as winner of the Cowles Poetry prize, and you ought to check it out because one thing the world needs more of is people who read poetry. You can learn more about and purchase Brad's book by clicking the button below.

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Below is what Brad Modlin had to say about The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault.

This energetic book keenly illuminates an absurd world—a world of airmen who bury tires in sand, and of football players who claim real men do not wear sunscreen, and of people who believe memories can be destroyed as easily as documents. “The world works without our help and without concern for what we notice,” Jennings writes. Yet, here he is, struggling to help and to notice it all. Somehow even the reader feels noticed, befriended, as—with humor and grief—Jennings walks a switchback path to a kind of wisdom.
— Brad Modlin, author of Everyone at this Party has Two Names
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Adam Schuitema on Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

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Here I am with another blurb and a thank you for Adam Schuitema. I'd heard about Adam from Dustin M. Hoffman back in my MFA days at Bowling Green State University. Adam had been Dustin's mentor and Dustin had a lot of nice things to say about Adam. When I moved to Kalamazoo, MI to begin my Ph. D. in English, I was soon introduced to Adam at a party that Dan Mancilla had at his house. (This is a lot of name dropping that might not mean much to people who don't know the work of these writers, but since I don't care about that, it's happening. We have the power to make the people we care about celebrities, you know? So if you really like your aunt Bernice, talk her up. People will eventually know about her.) 

Adam was a funny guy and because of my interaction with him as a person I decided to take a look at some of his writing. The first book of his I read was Haymaker and I loved it and reviewed it. You can read that review by clicking the button below.

His newest book is The Things We Do That Make No Sense, and I am linking to it here. I've not yet had a chance to read it (or basically anything at all aside from kids' books this year), but I know Adam and his work and am confident that you should check it out. Click the button below to read about it on Amazon.

And finally here are the kind things Adam had to say about The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault coming this Labor Day from Little Presque Books. Thanks again, Adam. It means a hell of a lot that you found the time to do this. 

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"The Red Book is a relentless, frenetic study of memory. Jennings lays his experiences bare, whether they involve the war in Iraq or the wars in one’s head, debating with himself as if there’s an angel on one shoulder and a smart-ass devil on the other. This book tunnels through anger and frustration, humor and absurdity, and somewhere in that blur where boyhood becomes manhood, Jennings breaks through to daylight, a husband and father grateful for the place where he now stands."

Adam Schuitema, author of The Things We Do That Make No Sense

 

Natalie Giarratano talks about Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault

Natalie Giarratano, author of Big Thicket Blues, has been kind enough to read my forthcoming collection of essays and share some of her thoughts about my book publicly. Because of space limitations in the physical book, the blurbs will not be printed "in totality" (I bet you thought that was over with the eclipse, huh?) So I am going to be posting all the blurbs in full here on the Brandon's Book Blarning's Blog so that anyone who wants to see what some other folks thought about The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault thought about it before deciding to take my word that it is the most important book that has ever been written (by me). 

You can pick up a copy of Natalie's book Big Thicket Blues by clicking this button:

And now here is what Natalie's had to say about my book:

In The Red Book, Brandon Jennings kicks up the dust of his ghosts in confrontation with but also in celebration of all of the selves that have trudged through the mire of abuse, anger, loneliness, and apathy. He dismantles the easy binaries, including the expectations of toxic masculinity that are wrapped up in his upbringing and military experiences, through conversational wit and often devastating honesty. In reading these essays, one bears witness to the person who was once silent in his shame as he relentlessly sings his scars into a redeemed recognizability.  

—Natalie Giarratano, author of Big Thicket Blues

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Say Something: The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to be posting the extremely kind blurbs and reviews I've received from so many friends and writers about my collection of essays that will be released on Labor Day, but before I get to that, there is something I need to say about the state of my country: a country for which I enlisted in the military and served with people of every color and faith, a country that myself and all those people I served with volunteered to defend so that the people who live here can live the lives they choose to.

The Red Book is the result of a lot of hard work by many people, of many colors and faiths. I wrote the essays, but I had a lot of help over the years from people who motivated me to keep on writing them even when I thought the essays were pointless. No one cares about this was a thought that I battled back again and again as the essays grew longer and the book became more and more complicated. But I got it done and now it's set to come out from Little Presque Books, and so it goes.

As I typed this post (and still now after it is finished) I wondered how it would be received because it is, in part, advertising. That's what you do when you write a book and you believe in it and you want people to read it and share it with other people: you advertise. So I am. But I do not just want to advertise my book here. I want to advertise something else too; so if the book ever does well, then it will be clear where I stand, and if no one other than friends and relatives ever reads the book, then it will be clear to them where I stand, and that is just as important. The absurd idea that you should avoid the topic of politics has to stop because if we never discuss politics or have our beliefs and ideas challenged, how can we grow?

For twenty years I was afraid to tell my friends and family that I was molested; I was silent because I was "being a man" and the pain of that event cut at me for a long, long time. After years of drinking and being negative and depressed, I was lucky enough to find people who believed in me enough that I felt compelled to tell them the truth about my past, and I was also lucky enough that they still loved me after I told them (perhaps that seems obvious to anyone who's never felt ashamed for something they had no control over, but I was legitimately afraid that if the truth about that event came out, my life would be ruined). Not everyone is that lucky; the world is not fair, and I know that. I've known that a long time. But despite the disparity of wealth and love and everything else in the world, we can do things to make the world better for people other than ourselves (which actually makes it better for ourselves as well because we are all on this planet together.)

I have met and known racists all over the world; they're all the same. They're all angry, and they focus their anger on people who "look" different than they do despite not being any different at all. We are all people, and we're all made up of the same stuff. "White supremacy" is a lie because "white" is not real. White supremacists have been lied to, and they believe the lie because they're angry about something. There is no single reason for the anger. People generally have reasons for feeling the way that they do, and sometimes those reasons are misguided. I was picked on many times as a kid in school because I am white, but the people who teased me or fought me were not representatives of their respective "races" (Again: races are not real. Humans with different skin tones; that is all we are. If you believe otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.) Because I had people around me to remind me that jerks come in all colors, I was able to know that good people come in all colors too; it's really that simple. We don't need to complicate it any more than that.

The thing that I hope some angry kids (regardless of skin tone) out there in the world might come across before they harden their hearts and decide to live their life angrily while trying to build an ugly and hateful world is this:

What happens when you get rid of the people you blame for all your problems and your problems remain? The hate won't stop with one group of people. First it's just about being white, but who becomes the problem next? Brown haired people? Brown eyed people? People with freckles? Left-handed people? People over six feet tall? People who don't score well enough on a test that favors people who read a specific version of the Bible only made available to people in the midwest? etc. 

I am writing this post because I have a book coming out that is in large part about my silence and anger and frustration over the years. But the book is also about ignorance and how it is literally destroying our country. I was silent about things that happened to me when I was too young to even know they were wrong, and I will not be silent about this now because people are always able to make a choice. If we give people access to the information they need to make a wise choice, then there is hope for them to make that choice. There are people who we will never reach, but those are not the people I am concerned about. I care about the people we might reach by saying something or writing something or doing something. Apathy and disinterest got me a front row seat during the invasion of Iraq (from Saudi Arabia. I was a communications guy.), and I am not going to let apathy and disinterest be the model that I show my children or my friends because I want to create a positive impact on the greatest number of people that I can during the time I have on this planet. 

For anyone else who is looking for a way to act similarly, here's what I propose: be an example of good. Don't make someone feel like they are a bad person because they are ignorant. Ignorance can be cured! And the way to cure it is by giving people the information they need to know in order to make an informed choice. If people have the information and they choose to disregard it, you cannot help that. But if you have the information and you choose to withhold it because you don't want to offend a family member or someone you care about, then you're hurting yourself too. When your aunt or uncle or whomever makes a racist joke and your kid is in the room and you say nothing, you are failing. Walking out of the room and leaving without a word is saying something, as Donald Trump showed us this week. 

I know some people can't escape racism. Some people depend on racists, are married to them or are their children. I'm not telling people to walk out of their homes if it means becoming destitute. But I am telling you that if you live in a racist household, then you can find a way to push back against the hate even if you have to do so discretely. One way to work against racism is to stop calling skin tone race because that is not what it is. "Interracial marriage" is an absurd term. It's marriage between two humans. "interracial families" are just families. It's called "the human race" because all humans are a part of it; so let's start talking that way.

Writing this is pretty easy for me to do. I'm just typing while staring at a computer screen. I'm not confronting a family member (directly), and I've been lucky enough in my life that I'm often surrounded by people whom I agree with. I live in a place where there were no protesters at the vigil I attended last night with my family in order to remember the ugliness that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. I know that I am lucky, 

Everyone is capable of fighting this battle, but you have to figure out how you can fight it best. Mayor Pete Buttigieg mentioned in his speech at the vigil that we need to beat this with love, and that's the truth. We do need to beat this with love because you cannot beat it with more hate. Know your strengths and use them to push as much of this ugliness back into the holes where it hides as we can. One thing that these recent events have proven to me is that racism and hate will never go away completely. We will always have to fight them. We will always have to be vigilant. White supremacy or supremacy of any kind is terrorism, and we have to fight it together as humans. There are more of us than there are of them, and that's because we are human and we know that being human has nothing to do with the color of a person's skin, with their faith or their lack of it. Fight however you can. I'll write because that is what I do. 

 

 

The Bombmaker's Wife Free on Kindle Today!

Hey there,

Just some random painting I did.

Just some random painting I did.

I have been swamped lately with a lot of awesome things. My kindle single is finally getting released in German soon, a lot of blurbs have been coming in for The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault, and I am working on a logo for a company. All of that in addition to the regular day to day dadding activities. (Thank God the girls nap...most days).

The Bombmaker's Wife is actually free on Kindle today. It did not win the contest I entered, and the terms for it being available on amazon are nearly up, so I will soon pull it and pursue other means of publication for the book. So basically what I am saying is, if you want the book for free, then now is your chance to get it for free and potentially before it becomes a different book when a bunch of editors get their filthy hands on it and make me turn it into a Disney Movie (a bad one, I mean.)

Click the button below to get your free copy of The Bombmaker's Wife  before it's too late!

Waiting for the Enemy: a Reflection

This is the original cover.

This is the original cover.

I'm doing some reflecting these days on the path that I traveled to reach this point with The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault, and I'm starting with a book of fiction that was first published by Iron Horse Literary Review back in 2012: my first (and only) chapbook of stories.

When I submitted this collection to the Iron Horse Literary Review single author chapbook competition, I was not in a good spot psychologically. A lot of my colleagues were having publication success, and despite all the time and effort I was putting into my own work, I was not getting published as much as they were. It isn't supposed to be a competition, but the world doesn't teach you as well as it should to value the work itself, and partly that is because writing is very often a job that doesn't pay even when you do get published (or publish yourself), It was frustrating, and for anyone who doesn't already know this,  a large part of being a writer is being frustrated: with your work, with not hearing from agents or magazines, with the unknown. And that's okay by me. I have a lot of other things in my life that make me happy when I am not feeling accomplished as a writer. I know that is a gift, and I am grateful for it. 

I entered the contest thinking that there was no way I would ever win because, you know, what did I have to say that hadn't already been said better by someone smarter or someone who had a harder life than I'd had? All of the stuff in my book was said already in Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five and The Red Badge of Courage and The Iliad and The Bible. So sending the book into the contest was just like burning twenty dollars, but it was at least a better investment than a night at Waldo's (the bar I drank at most often in Kalamazoo during grad school.) And maybe the twenty dollars would help to support some brilliant writer's work. Good karma.

I cannot recall exactly how long it took for Waiting for the Enemy to be selected as a finalist or for the book to be chosen by Kelly Cherry as the winner. What I do remember was that when I received notification Waiting for the Enemy had won the contest that Leslie Jill Patterson's email said they were excited to publish my "Book of essays." That was shocking to me because it is a work of fiction; Rake and Vezchek and all the characters in the book are fictional, so I was terrified because I thought that the only reason Kelly Cherry and Iron Horse selected my book was because they thought the stories were factual. 

I called my friend Hugh Martin to tell him this and talk about how I was worried that if I responded to them and told them that the book was fiction that they'd say "never mind" and then they'd choose a different book as the winner. I remember telling him, "I'm not gonna tell them," because I wanted to be published so badly. I was tired of waiting for someone to recognize me and my work, and I wasn't going to hamstring myself. If they thought the book was nonfiction, then that was their fault. I never told them that it was nonfiction. I submitted it as fiction, so that's all that mattered. 

The thought of "cheating" to win in that way wore on me during the course of the day. I sat on the back porch, half-thrilled and half-despondent. The 1000 dollar prize wasn't small change to me at the time (nor should it be to anyone ever); the stipend that WMU paid me to teach was okay, but I still had to take out loans in order to survive ("Had" is strong. I could've worked somewhere in addition to teaching and being a Ph D. student, but had I done that I may still be in the Ph D. program today, and I would not be happy if I were).

After a lot of time tossing the frisbee to my mini Aussie Finny (hard to believe my life was ever without two daughters and two dogs.; I am so grateful to Tina for helping me to see the joy that caring for other living things can bring you), I decided to email Leslie Jill Patterson at Iron Horse Literary Review and tell her the truth about the book. I can remember feeling so sick to my stomach that I could barely stand after hitting send.

The rest of the day I questioned my decision. I'm not sure how long this was after the James Fray incident, but it was on my mind. Of course his book made way more money than my tiny chapbook of stories about soldiers and military brats would or will ever make, but the principle is what mattered, right? Being honest about what I presented was more important than 1000 dollars or feeling accomplished if the accomplishment was the result of a lie, even if it wasn't a lie that I told. Oprah was never going to call me to talk about my book, so it didn't really matter, But at least I had told the truth about it, and that meant I would be able to sleep easy at night once I got over the sadness of having a publication ripped from my hands by my own inability to keep my mouth shut.

Dread crept in eventually. What if I was never published again and the only reason that anyone ever liked anything I had ever done was because they felt sorry for me or because they thought by publishing some "war stories" they would help their magazine gain some exposure and further their ability to share work they really believed in. You know, like how some press might publish a book of poems by James Franco in order to get media attention regardless of how bad the work is (hypothetically: no one with integrity would ever do that, right?).

What happened later though was that Leslie Jill Patterson emailed me back and she said something that I will never forget. My email had said: "I'm sorry if somehow my work mislead you to believe that this book was nonfiction. This book is a collection of stories, and if that means you don't want to publish it anymore, then I understand."

Jill's response regarding the genre of the book was, "We don't care what genre it is; we love the book."

I don't think this is the way it goes for everyone all the time. And I feel extremely lucky that the book was published by Iron Horse Literary Review, and I feel even better that I was honest about what kind of book it was. And when I met Jill at AWP later that year and learned that Waiting for the Enemy had sold out and that they needed to do a second print run, I was ecstatic. 

Later, when the rights were mine again, I submitted the chapbook Kindle Singles. Submitting a book to an ebook only publisher was something was very much foreign to me and to my friends in the academy. I kind of did it and just assumed there was no way that amazon would ever want to publish something of mine because the market for literary fiction is nowhere near as profitable as the market for Romance or Vampires or Zombies or just garbage written by people who are famous merely because they're rich and "beautiful". 

And yet Andrew Eisenman at Kindle Singles told me they wanted the book, and then it was published on Amazon as well, and now it's there for as long as I'd like it to be as an ebook. It's a best-seller, and it was the #1 Free War Book (which is another thing. If I were ever to do so well that money didn't matter to me, I could just give my books away for free in perpetuity; I am not there, but here's hoping). It hasn't made so much money that it pays my mortgage or anything, but it's made more money than it would've earned if it wasn't available at all. These stories weren't written to make money, but a fact I've learned is that if you want people to read your work, then they are more likely to do so if they believe it has value. It's funny to me how people associate money and value, but I guess there's some connection there.

Waiting for the Enemy has been reviewed 8 times on Amazon and some on Goodreads, and I've been lucky enough to get emails from people who've read it to tell me they enjoyed it and so on. I'm sure there'll be some angry reviews or some reviews that don't like the subject matter or the style or whatever as well. But no good or bad reviews would exist if the book wasn't out in the world doing what books do, and I am grateful to Iron Horse Literary Review and Leslie Jill Patterson for telling me that they didn't care if the book was fiction or nonfiction. The genre didn't matter to me when I wrote the stories. I was just trying to tell them honestly, and I did the best that I could at the time. 

If you're interested in reading a sample from Waiting for the Enemy, you can do so by clicking the button below.

If you are interested in buying the book to read on the Kindle App (or a Kindle proper), you can click the button below.

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Rattle Free Today and Tomorrow!

Hello! The title says it all mostly. My best-selling and highly acclaimed novella Battle Rattle is free on Kindle for the next two days. I am doing this in order to try and spread the word about my forthcoming collection of essays Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault that will be out this Labor Day from Little Presque Books.

If you've not read Battle Rattle yet or if you have been trying to get people to read it and they didn't want to spend 3 dollars to do so, then now is their chance to get it for free. Tell them about the book. Click the button below to go straight to the page where you can get it.

I won't waste time here trying to sell you on Battle Rattle because if you follow the link, then you can read all the reviews. What I will try to sell you on is The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault which Wendell Mayo and Raegen Pietrucha have had some very kind things to say about so far.

 

Here are their words about my forthcoming collection of essays.:

Jennings is brilliant at the art of autobiographical essay, not only showing how he is caught up in mainstream events like 9/11 and Iraqi Freedom, but how his past and present selves whorl and eddy in essays that are richly drawn and brutally honest. In this groundbreaking book, Jennings intersperses excerpts from his teenage-self’s diary, the “Red Book,” dialogue with an unnamed other, footnotes, and so much more. The net result is a kind of atomic cloud full of crackling energy and wonder at these myriad experiences, as our narrator suggests, a startling spectrum, “a continuum that shifts from Pussy to Badass.” Read this book. It’s a stunner. It’ll open your eyes and break your heart.

-Wendell Mayo, Author of The Cucumber King of Kedainiai
There’s much to enjoy in The Red Book—humor and honesty topping the list. This personal meditation does more than acknowledge the inherent tension between individual identity and preordained masculinity, isolation and interconnectedness, and reality and human construct; it celebrates these often irreconcilable dualities. In doing so, Jennings reveals his unwavering faith in the power of art and its ability to save a life—even if that life is one’s own.



—Raegen Pietrucha, author of An Animal I Can’t Name

 

 

The Red Book or OIF is My Fault: Praise from Raegen Pietrucha!

The public thank yous continue today. I am sharing this blurb written by poet and friend Raegen Pietrucha. She was in her second year at Bowling Green State University when I started there. Raegen was a big fan of frozen chocolate bananas and of saying silly things and laughing at the silly things others said. Since a big part of my survival strategy while I was away from Tina was doing and saying silly things, this made it easy for Raegen and I to be friends.

Before I post the blurb, I want to mention first that the money Raegen makes from the sales of her chapbook are donated to causes that fight abuse. So if you buy her book of poems, then you will not only be getting an excellent book of poetry (I reviewed it here: An Animal I can't Name), but you'll also be spending money to help stop people from becoming victims of abuse or to help them escape abusive situations and so on. If you want to know what specific causes she donates to, then I am sure you can ask on the comments section on her website which I am linking to below. And if you want a copy of her book An Animal I Can't Name, the best way to get it is to click the button below as well. 

Here is what Raegen had to say about my book:

There's much to enjoy in The Red Book—humor and honesty topping the list. This personal meditation does more than acknowledge the inherent tension between individual identity and preordained masculinity, isolation and interconnectedness, and reality and human construct; it celebrates these often irreconcilable dualities. In doing so, Jennings reveals his unwavering faith in the power of art and its ability to save a life—even if that life is one's own. 

A Photo of The Red Book

A Photo of The Red Book

 

—Raegen Pietrucha, author of An Animal I Can’t Name

Thank you so much Raegen. 

The Red Book or OIF is My Fault: Praise from Wendell Mayo!

Here is the cover!

Here is the cover!

One of the coolest things about having a new book on the way is that you get to ask people you admire to read it and write up nice things about it. Part of what I'll be doing on the blog during the lead up to publication of The red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault is posting the blurbs from the awesome people who've written them for me and linking to their work so that hopefully some of you will go out and see what they are working on our what they've done already. 

Here is the cover of the original red book.

Here is the cover of the original red book.

Today I am posting a blurb from Wendell Mayo. Wendell was one of my professors at Bowling Green State University (what seems a million years ago), and being in a classroom with him was something special. More than once, he handed me a story back and the last two pages would be crossed out and he'd have rewritten the ending in the voice of my narrator. The man is powerful mimic and writer. He also often had fruit snacks.

Here is some of what Wendell had to say about my forthcoming book:

"Jennings is brilliant at the art of autobiographical essay, not only showing how he is caught up in mainstream events like 9/11 and Iraqi Freedom, but how his past and present selves whorl and eddy in essays that are richly drawn and brutally honest. In this groundbreaking book, Jennings intersperses excerpts from his teenage-self’s diary, the “Red Book,” dialogue with an unnamed other, footnotes, and so much more. The net result is a kind of atomic cloud full of crackling energy and wonder...Read this book. It's a stunner. It’ll open your eyes and break your heart."

Thank you so much for writing this Wendell and for believing in me and my work.

You can find Wendell's latest book by clicking the button below.