A title like Self-Published Kindling: Memoirs of a Homeless Bookstore owner is ambitious, to say the least. We’re expecting a lot from a title like that. We’re hoping Mik Everett is going to back up that promising title with a hell of a good story, and she does. Mik Everett lives and breathes the fantastic potential of literature. She believes in its restorative powers. It is writing and reading books that serves as one of the anchors that keeps her leveled, as she moves throughout the harrowing, funny, moving, and even unfortunate adventures that make up these memoirs. Self-Published Kindling brings to task many of the structures and social ideologies that are clearly and severely broken in the United States. It does this through her own refreshing, captivating voice. And it accomplishes this through a writing style that embraces a sense of humor, as keenly as it embraces the horrible, grim realities of a particularly chaotic situation.
Everett is only twenty-three years old. Yet reading Self-Publishing Kindling suggests that the narrator is much older. It’s easy to make that mistake. Mik Everett has been to college, had a daughter, traveled considerably, worked as an editor and writer for various publications, opened a bookstore, and worked as a logic instructor. Naturally, it’s the bookstore owner part of her resume that figures heavily into this book. Creating something that is designed to encourage and nurture independent authors is never going to be a terrible idea. Unfortunately, circumstances sometimes work against such a noble endeavor. As we discover through Self-Published Kindling, the rapidly-changing publishing industry, coupled with an economy weakened by corruption and stupidity, plunges Everett and her family into homelessness.
Being homeless is the sort of thing that you can really only appreciate when you’ve gone through it yourself. Most of us can only imagine being in such a situation. Everett uses language and tone that suggest this period of her life is something that’s never going to completely leave her, no matter how much better things have gotten since. In terms of the book, that translates into something that will bring most of us as close to being able to accurately imagine being without a home, and all the terrifying uncertainty that goes with such a thing, as we could ever hope to get. It’s not implicitly stated that Self-Published Kindling wants to do this, but it’s a natural byproduct of reading it nonetheless.
Self-Published Kindling would make for brilliant fiction. It is infuriating to keep in mind every step of the way that everything here is absolutely true. Even more enraging is the stupefying number of people who have not been able to endure and move forward as Everett has. Again, expressing these things is not something the book does openly. If you read it from cover to cover, you’re bound to arrive at these conclusions. It’s as simple as that.
Yet this book is not a wholly depressing story. It makes us uncomfortable, and it makes us angry, but it also drives home a message of consistently grounded, realistic hope. It reinforces the notion that not everyone is a selfish bastard, and that there are times when the casual altruism of others can be spiritual than any religion going today. Self-Published Kindling reveals not only the character of its author, and that’s a considerable amount of character. It drives home the idea that some people truly are decent. If you stick to that idea by the end, then you’ll believe that there is still some semblance of hope for humanity. We need to be kinder, and we need to destroy collective delusions about things like class and homelessness. Everett herself, as well as some of the people who appear in her memoirs, make you believe that such goals are actually within our grasp.