Strong and Important Message, Bit Lost in Tangents
Mar 19, 2010
When the author contacted me about doing a review of his book, I very nearly said no. I get several review requests per week, so I have been forced to get choosier about the review copies I accept. But I took a closer look at the book description and changed my mind. We don't have nearly enough books that talk honestly about the shortcomings of our juvenile justice system. Perhaps Kreiling had something new and important to add?
I was a little put off by the large print of the book when my copy arrived. It makes the book bulkier than it need be, and implies a readership it probably doesn't have--the elderly? The very young?
I started to read, and large print was forgotten, as I fell into the story. This was a heck of a story. One with which, unfortunately, I was all too familiar from my own experiences, raising my son as a single mother. Those preteen and teen years can be so very difficult for boys and young men growing up without good, strong male role models, and having a father present doesn't in and of itself fill that gap. It depends on the type of father. But I could relate to young Kip's mother painfully well, the heartbreak of watching a son struggle to find his place in a world that makes a molehill of a youthful mistake quickly turn into a mountain of trouble. What should be a "teaching moment" or a wake-up call often gets turned into a downward spiral by a juvenile justice system that is often predatory and punitive rather than caring and rehabilitative.
With Kreiling's misadventures with drug use; gangs or kids simply gone wild; with the idiocy of the current juvenile justice system--"They were turning me into a harder criminal than I already was." (page 35)--and an educational system that has been broken for a long time; with a society in general that treats our youth as second or even last priority; a foster system that started as a good idea but is now more infamous for abuse cases than rescue stories; we are all in trouble. This cannot go on.
I read with excitement, because Kreiling was telling a story that needs to be told. I'm glad to see he is an enthused marketer as well, doing everything he can to promote his book. Good. I have visions of this book being passed around juvenile delinquent homes and youth prisons, even adult prisons, with its basic message of hope: everyone can change. Indeed, perhaps that is the thought behind the large print, because those who languish in prison more often than not come from backgrounds of poverty and little to no education, so whatever can be done to make this easier to read is a good idea.
A better idea: another round of editing that goes deep with cuts and brings the writing, which is not bad but not yet up to par, to the level this memoir deserves. Personally, my suggestion would be to lose the eight principles of change and to simply write his story, tell it like it was and how it is now. Write the memoir, skip the rest. Let the story tell its own lessons, rather than inserting an artificial listing of principles, or morals, at the finish of most chapters. After all, none of the lessons are particularly memorable, and certainly nothing we haven't heard before. Principles of change such as (paraphrased)--change your environment and you will change yourself; don't plan for failure; choose your friends carefully because you will mimic their behavior; get disciplined in pursuing your dreams, and so on, appear in countless variations in a thousand self-help books and many are already a part of the commonly known 12-step programs that, frankly, do it better.
When Kreiling wrote about his own life, I was mesmerized. This was honest, raw, ugly, real. This was good and inspirational storytelling, with plenty of conflict and obstacles to be overcome, a hero that kept falling but still had something of integrity buried deep in him right from the start, keeping the reader interested and rooting for him to survive. One only had to look closely enough, and through caring eyes, to see the potential and root for it to rise.
While some of Kreiling's intellectual explorations are mildly interesting, they, too, tend to distract from the meat of a great story. I had to think of one of the most powerful books I've ever read: Monster : The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member by Sanyika Shakur, who today works to end gang violence. Had Kreiling stuck to his memoir, his good message would surely have more power and less of a didactic tone. Instead, Kreiling veers into side stories about Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin and Ayn Rand and young Gisela, a brainwashed Communist who sees the light by spending time with a tour group of boys (including Kreiling) from the free West. These tour group boys understand that they will not change Gisela by preaching to her. They instinctively understand that she will learn in a more meaningful way simply my observing what freedom looks like in her peers from the free world. Kreiling would do well to apply the same wisdom to his book.
Mind you, those side stories are interesting, and I could relate. I, too, traveled behind the Iron Curtain as a young woman. I, too, was drawn to Ayn Rand's philosophy, and I even went through some of the same internal debates as Kreiling, wondering how and if Rand's objectivism could fit with Christianity. I suspect if I ever met Kreiling, we'd have a heck of a lot to talk about and a great deal of experiences on which to compare notes. Yet crowding all these tangents into one book is just that, overcrowding, and dilutes from the purity of his message.
This message is too important to miss. Kreiling has all the requirements to be the one to tell it. He has been to those darkest of places. He has hit despair, seen the insides of prisons, and he has known what it means to sink into and to beat an addiction and to relapse and have to beat it again. He knows what it means to betray and be betrayed. And there is no more powerful storyteller than he who knows and tells it from the heart.
Kreiling has lots of heart. Or call it conscience. It is his heart and his conscience--and a keen intelligence that makes itself known even when still uneducated--that save him and save this book. Kreiling has led a remarkable life. Today a successful businessman, husband and father, he has proven that change is possible. He has shown that any addiction can be overcome. These are the makings of a great story. Cleaning away the frill and the fuss, this great story could really touch many hungry hearts and minds, those like his, despairing to keep hope alive.
Four stars for message, three stars for execution.
~Zinta Aistars for The Smoking Poet, Spring 2010 Issue
I will admit that I am not much of a reader of self-help/transformation books. The preamble for most of them starts off with, "Do you like the way things are going in your life?" Perhaps that's a cynical judgement call on my part, but I've never been wrong so far when dealing with books that fall into that category. The Imposter, however, is not like that. It is in a different league, because it possesses tidbits of the memoir genre, positive psychology, science, religious awakening, … more
"The Imposter" is the well-written "transformation memoir" of Kip Kreling. The author tells the dark story of his violent youth--numerous arrests,, abuse at home, drug addictions, runaways, drug dealing, robberies (both perpetrator and victim). As a young man, Kreiling was well on the way to a life in prison or bare survival on the edge of society. But then comes the transformation, when Kreiling changed his life, quit drugs, went to college, and succeeded in business. The … more
Subtitled "How a Juvenile Criminal Succeeded in Business and Life," "The Imposter?" takes its title from several people telling the author that people cannot really change and that if that statement is true, then he, the author, must be an imposter. The early years of Kip Kreiling's life were made up of physical abuse, crime, drug addiction, homelessness, drinking, being kicked out of school, and generally giving up on anything positive in life. His mother continually tried to reach out to him, … more
I have a great deal of respect for author Kip Kreiling and what he has given the world in THE IMPOSTER? He has taken us into a dark place in his own past and decided to use his experiences to help others while helping us understand what we can do to break the cycle. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are the only one having to deal with a bad situation. Kip lets you know that regardless of what you are faced with and how bad things might appear, the one thing you … more
I can't really bring myself to call this a self-help book; it reads more like a cross between a memoir and a psychology book. On the other hand, it helped me greatly, so maybe it is a self-help book of sorts. It's not hard to imagine that Kip might have picked up some wisdom during his hard fought transformation from a young criminal fleeing a troubled home to a successful father and husband. You also might imagine that someone in his position would write a book filled with aphorisms about "never … more
Kip Kreiling contacted me and offered me a copy of The Imposter. As a reviewer, I'm a little apprehensive when it comes to books that are published outside of the traditional route. I've read some pretty rough traditionally published books and some really, really rough self-published ones. But Kip's story intrigued me. He had a rough background and extreme addictions, failed or dropped out of or was expelled from many schools. So how could he end up becoming a power player in some pretty impressive … more
For the last decade, it's been easily observed that there are thousands upon thousands of self-help books conceived and written around the concept of helping any individual achieve life-alerting change. Everyone -- from self-help gurus to industry-leading professionals to curious politicians -- has jumped aboard this life-shaking franchise, offering up perspective after perspective about what steps are required to reach a life of successful living. While some of these books go to great lengths … more
Kip Kreiling's book is an inspiration to all to show that change is not only a possibility but can be made reality by just starting with a few small steps. He draws you in immediately by relating how he is in an executive dining facility and the waitress senses he doesn't belong and Kip himself starts to feel that maybe he is a "successful" imposter. He then proceeds to tell a brief summary of how he was a juvenile criminal and a drug user. As Kip tells his tale … more
Kip Kreilig had a troubled childhood and he was involved with crime, drugs and alcohol. This book is a semi-telling of his transformation into a successful professional and certain principles he has recognized as having a transformative effect on his life. Mr. Kreilig hopes that, with this book, he can inspire and/or encourage others to achieve a positive transformation. The main issue with this book is that it alternates between memoir and a semi-self-help book. This results … more
Review of: "The Imposter? How A Juvenile Criminal Succeeded In Business And Life." Kip Kreiling's memoir about his mental and spiritual transformation is mesmerizing. I have read many books ascribed as transformation accounts couched in the self-development/self-help genre which promise to illuminate the reader's "consciousness," etc. However I find Kreiling's account unique in that it appears to be very honest and lucid without commercialization. I have have read enough … more
I just received your published book in the mail. Thank you. Your dedication to your mother brought tears to my eyes, which caused me to turn to your acknowledgement section. It affected me so strongly I had to leave my desk and go to a back room to finish reading it; tears were streaming down my cheeks. Your mother's love for you overwhelmed me. And you keeping the erector set that John gave you for all those years so touching.
I thought your story was truly amazing as you shared bits and pieces of it with me when we worked together at Tomax. Then, when I read your transcript, before your book was published, I was flabbergasted, for lack of a better word. Having read your acknowledgements section today it touched me so deeply. It really testifies that God knows every single one of his children and what their needs are and brings people into our lives to help us when we need it most. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing!.
Lastly, I truly hope your books gains the kind of momentum so that someone like Oprah picks it up. Your story needs and deserves a national audience. People need to know that it is possible to triumph over the most hideous of circumstances and how to do that. And, another reason the world needs to know your story is so the John's, Mr. Fosters, and Sims' of the world won't give up and will provide as much help as a hurting boy will allow them to give at that time with the hope that, even though it may seem futile at the moment, a ...