Bill Craig’s first book started out as a “personal political mission.”
Partly due to family history, and partly due to his disillusionment with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the River Valley Community College professor and former journalist set out to try to find where America went down what he saw as the wrong path. His ultimate destination: Cuba.
In “Yankee Come Home: On the Road from San Juan Hill to Guantanamo,” Craig travels to Cuba to examine the impact of U.S. intervention on the small island nation, the beginnings of which are tangled up with his own family’s history. Craig’s great-grandfather had talked of being part of that 1898 intervention, charging San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt.
More than just that family connection, Craig felt compelled to act on behalf of his stepson, a Marine put in harm’s way by foreign policy he did not agree with – from the invasion of Iraq to the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
“I wanted to do whatever I could as a citizen to participate in our national dialogue about foreign policy and its consequences,” he said.
Beyond writing the book, the author, who is a past president of Chapter 62 at River Valley Community College, found the process of getting his work published to be a significant challenge in its own right.
“As an author you have to kind of say, ‘hey, none of us know anything about this,’ ” Craig said.
“Perhaps more than ever before, publishers don’t know what will sell books,” he said. “They don’t really have a lot of faith in reviews in the traditional media. They’re not sure if their old advertising strategies work.”
On his end, Craig is working hard to promote his book, a dizzying prospect when coupled with his full-time job at the college.
“I’m trying to organize readings, work social media, publish reviews of other people’s books,” he said. “I’m just trying to do anything I can to reach out and create community around my book.”
“Yankee Come Home” is available in hardcover and digital editions, through large booksellers and small. If you prefer to go small and local, the website for the book, http://yankeecomehome.com/, directs you toward the book’s listing on www.indiebound.org, which will let you download the book or find an independent book store where you can buy it (this is an option Craig suggests “if you want that local bookstore there when you need it”).
Craig has three upcoming events in the region. The first is a reading at Left Bank Books on Oct. 23 in Hanover; he’ll also be at the Woodstock, Vt., Historical Society on Nov. 5 and at the Community College Humanities Association in Boston on Nov. 16.