What Does God Think: Transgender People and the Bible – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Cheryl B. Evans

What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible by Cheryl B. Evans is a thoughtful book which attempts to answer the very question from which it gets its title. Cheryl, the mother of a transgender son, is a Christian who went on her own journey of self-discovery and acceptance and wants to help other parents in her situation do the same. She argues, through the inclusion of extensive research and personal experiences, that the transgender community is a vital part of the Christian Church.


Evans presents a book that is thoroughly researched and well-thought-out. She leads the reader purposefully through an exploration of the transgender experience from the point of view of the family members who support the transgender individual. Adequate time is taken to define all terms that the reader may not be familiar with. She also includes a couple of excerpts from discussions with religious experts, which serve to illustrate the intricacies of her argument. In fact, What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible could benefit from the inclusion of additional material from religious and scientific experts to provide further support for the stance that Evans takes in the book.


What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible includes many quotations from the Bible, in addition to the commentary from experts in the field, and does a great job of analyzing the text in support of the overall argument. Evans has created a well structured and coherent exploration of what it is like to raise a transgender child in the Christian community. Her attempt to encourage compassion for the transgender community should be commended. Evans weaves a tapestry of personal anecdotes and experiences together with scientific fact and biblical analysis to present a finished piece that encourages people of all faiths to interrogate their worldview. In What Does God Think? Transgender People and the Bible, Cheryl B. Evans has created an approachable, non-judgmental exploration of raising a transgender child that everyone should read, regardless of their religious background.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Weeds in Nana’s Garden – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Kathryn Harrison

Sometimes a story comes along that touches your heart so much it’ll move you to tears. Kathryn Harrison’s children’s story, Weeds in Nana’s Garden is one of those stories. A young girl enjoys spending time in the garden each summer with her grandmother. They sing songs, create bouquets, hang out with the fairies and simply build a special bond with one another. Unfortunately, Nana begins to show signs of dementia, which the young girl’s mother gently explains to the girl. Over the next few years, the young girl grows into a beautiful young woman as she tries to help her nana move through the continual decline gracefully. Harrision also includes a wonderful Q & A section at the end of the book to help parents, guardians, etc. talk to children about the disease.

Weeds in Nana’s Garden is gloriously depicted with full-color illustrations by the author. Readers will likely feel like they’re spending time in the garden right alongside the gently aging grandmother, her granddaughter, the fairies, the birds and the colorful blossoms. Kathryn Harrison has a gift that she shares not only through her illustrations but her poetic words. A teeny-tiny error here or there could stand to be fixed, but the overall eloquence and importance of Weeds in Nana’s Garden aren’t distracted from at all.

Every library, every doctor’s office, every child’s home bookshelf and every counselor’s office should have a copy of Kathryn Harrison’s Weeds in Nana’s Garden. This is a disease that everyone encounters in one way or another, and Harrison has done such an absolutely beautiful job of shining a light on it, explaining it in a way that children can grasp and yet, still gripping the heart of any reader who peruses the pages of Weeds in Nana’s Garden. Highly recommended.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Whitney Dineen

Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs, written by 40-something mother of two young girls, Whitney Dineen, is a collection of humorous, sometimes hilarious, adventures of motherhood. This in-your-face book lays out the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the crazy times most every mother should be able to relate to on one level or another.

Seemingly more like a compilation of stories one might keep in a journal to reflect back upon years down the road than a comprehensive story from start to finish, Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs is not a guide to help other mothers, but rather an enjoyable read. The tales are short and concise, which means sometimes Dineen could have, perhaps, shared a few more details to more fully flesh out the description of the event. This could give readers a chance to enjoy even deeper belly laughs. Dineen’s high level of energy shines through the pages quite brightly, but that can be tiring after awhile -much like being a mom can be exhausting. Therefore, reading Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs in the bite-sized chunks it’s written in is advisable.

Whitney Dineen has skillfully captured her wild, crazy and sometimes embarrassing experiences within the pages of Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs. Readers will not only find surprises and mom moments they’ll surely identify with within every vignette, but they’ll find surprises on nearly every single page. Those few minutes moms get to just sit back and relax would well be spent devouring Dineen’s stories one at a time – whether hiding out in the bathroom or sitting in the car while rivulets of sweat slide down her back waiting on soccer practice to finish up. Laugh-out-loud and relatable, Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs by Whitney Dineen, would make a great gift for your mom, sister, daughter or wife. Well done!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Classics: Why and how we can encourage children to read them – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Fiza Pathan

Fiza Pathan has written a marvelous book to encourage children to read literature that will greatly improve their language skills, writing capabilities, vocabulary and general intelligence. CLASSICS: Why and how we can encourage children to read them, is filled with examples, from her own experiences as a teacher, of the beautiful impact reading classical literature has had on her students. But, it’s more than just that. Pathan really includes three books in one as she shares the first section, which is “Classics: Why We Should Encourage Children to Read Them”, the second section, “Classics: How We Can Encourage Children to Read Them” and the final section, “My Take on the Classics: A Memoir”. Devouring all three of these sections gives young readers, parents and teachers exciting reasons to do just as Fiza Pathan encourages and read the classics.

CLASSICS: Why and how we can encourage children to read them is not simply a book written to inspire young readers by telling them the benefits. Instead, Fiza Pathan includes a long list of classics she recommends. She breaks down what some of the specific classics help students learn and the areas in which it will help them grow. There are even quizzes and fun “worksheet-like” exercises included. The authors skills as an educator shine brightly throughout the book as she guides young readers and parents towards embracing the classics as a vital part of education. Fiza Pathan’s CLASSICS: Why and how we can encourage children to read them is a must read for parents, homeschool parents, teachers and children of all ages!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] Mercedes Samudio | Shame-Proof Parenting

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Mercedes Samudio

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Mercedes Samudio: I am a licensed clinical social worker and parent coach on a mission to end parent shaming. I work primarily with parents (with children of all ages) to help them feel confident on their parenting journey. A lot of the work I know focuses not just on a child’s behavior and the parenting strategies used to help raise healthy children, but also on the journey a human takes while becoming a parent. I have found that while we know that children need love and support to grow, we often forget that parents need the same to grow and become the parent they really want to be. As a writer, my first book expands on the idea of ending parent shame and supporting parents as they develop a healthy parenting identity.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Mercedes Samudio: I have been writing for over 20 years in various arenas. I started my professional writing in 2013 with a blog for my business and wrote a short ebook in 2015. But, to be honest, writing has been a huge part of my identity since writing my first poem in junior high school and then my first full length book in 2017.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Mercedes Samudio: My most recent release is Shame-Proof Parenting: Find Your Voice, Feel Empowered, and Raise Healthy Children released in April 2017. This book is a culmination of a 2 year campaign to end parent shaming, and introduces the idea that parent’s are humans who need space to develop a healthy parenting identity. I explore the effects of shame on parenting and the parent-child relationship and lay the foundation for parents to manage this shame on their parenting journey.

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ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Mercedes Samudio: What I’ve always loved about writing is the ability to get all the ideas out of my head and on to paper (or the computer). We all have so much for say and writing has allowed me the space to share my thoughts and explore ideas with others in healthy discussions. I truly believe that writing has the power to change the world.

Along the notion of changing the world, I believe that when we write we can heal people, help them see ideas from new perspectives, and even move them into changing aspects of the identity that need to evolve. Writing has such an ability to move others and to help others not feel alone on their journey.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Mercedes Samudio: I find it the most challenging to bring ideas from inside your head into a cohesive narrative or perspective. While writing my first book, I found that I think a lot. Although that’s a good thing, it can be a hurdle to overcome when trying to share a complete idea or teach a new concept. The struggle for me was being able to keep my voice while also being clear and concise in my writing.

Another challenge has been being disciplined in writing. While writing my first book, I was working with a coach to help me stay focused and hit my word count each week. I didn’t realize the amount of stamina and perseverance needed to not only write but stay invested in the topic you are writing about. After working with a coach, I found some great strategies on writing that can help me organize my ideas and stay focused on my end goals.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Mercedes Samudio: My ideas come from the work that I do with clients, the current trends in my niche/field, and from ideas that I want to contribute to the niche/field. When I first starting writing blogs, I began to write articles that answered common parenting concerns I was hearing in the field and with my clients. As I got more prolific in my writing, I began to also include my own ideas about supporting parents and commentary on current trends on parenting. Since my aim is to address the shame that surrounds parents and child-rearing, I don’t offer lots of steps nor do I bash other parenting experts who do so. Instead, I focus on sharing my voice in the areas that we are not formally and consistently talking about. I also tend to get ideas from people sharing their parenting stories with me and asking me how they can be more effective in their parenting.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Mercedes Samudio: Before writing my first book, my writing process consisted of: idea generation, writing blog/article, proofreading, and then publishing online. This was how I became a consistent blogger and was able to produce a lot of content to enhance my branding and my voice. After writing a book, the process has changed a bit: idea generation, free-writing, organizing, planning, writing draft, proofreading, editing, re-wrtiting draft, and then publishing. There may be a period where between planning and writing I let me ideas simmer and/or another bout of free-writing to get more of my actual voice in the piece, but this is not often. I know also think about other publications where my writing can be featured since I have a longer process that includes editing the piece.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Mercedes Samudio: I write non-fiction. I feel that one of the best ways that helped me hone my message and voice was blogging. I’ve been writing content for my blog on my professional website for 5 years. In this process, I have learned to be more concise, clear, and honest in how I discuss concepts and opinions. That set a good foundation for writing my first book – and I know it will be a great basis for future books that I write. Now, I don’t feel like my messages gets away from me because I know what I want to say, I have proven writing process that helps me organize my thoughts, and I know how to get support when I need another pair of eyes on my content. I will say that going through several rounds of editing (both developmental and copyediting) taught me a lot about how our ideas are experienced by others. There were times when I really hit the nail on the head in how I presented an idea, and others where I spend too much time explaining that I lost the editor. This editing process made me more aware of the journey you want your reader to go on and where you want them to be by the end of reading your work. That revelation has helped me be more streamlined in how I share non-fiction concepts.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Mercedes Samudio: If I had to pick just one part of the book that’s my favorite, I’d have to say it’s the discussion on parenting defense mechanisms. In this part of the book I share a concept that had been brewing in my mind for a while, and one that I would bring up in sessions with my clients. However, this was the first time that I wrote about them in a concise and clear way so that others can also learn how parents protect their parenting identity. I have since talked about this idea in trainings and workshops where it has been well received and even used by other colleagues. That’s the best feeling ever: to know that a concept you created is helping others understand aspects of their life and their experiences.

ATAI: What are you working on next?


Mercedes Samudio: Currently I am working on speaking and taking the concepts of my recent book to the masses. I enjoy sharing the book’s concepts with parents and professionals so that we can get to work on ending parent shaming. I am also working on gathering content for the next book I want to write, which will introduce the idea of having a parenting renaissance in our culture.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Mercedes Samudio: I’m all over the internet. Hahaha. But, you can get started on my site: http://shameproofparenting.com. From there you can find all my social media links and a contact form to reach out.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Mercedes Samudio: Thanks so much for allowing me to share my process with your audience. If you’re reading this and wondering if your ideas or concepts would make a good book, don’t worry about that yet. Just start writing and let the ideas flow. You never know who might need to hear your ideas with your voice to help them move into a healthier part of their life.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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Damn Mind – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran’s second book in her Words of Wisdom for Teens series is another shining light for young adults. I would but my DAMN MIND won’t let me!: A teen’s guide to controlling their thoughts and feelings is a book written to help teenagers break patterns and gain a better understanding of how their mind works. Coming from the view point of clinical psychology and science, Damn Mind is an excellent secular resource. Letran not only breaks down technical scientific and psychological concepts into understandable chunks of information, but she wraps up the educational chapters with what she calls 60-Second Readers, which are bullet-poined summaries of the content from each chapter. In the last third of the book, she offers case studies. At the end of each of those chapters, she offers a tip and a self-reflection exercise. She also offers “free stuff” including the audiobook through a link on her website. Therefore, she gives readers the opportunity to explore further once they’ve read Damn Mind.

Written in language that is relatable to teens, Damn Mind is a quick and fairly easy read. Occasionally, some of the chapter sections are a bit heavy or complex in their wording, but Jacqui Letran quickly offers simpler language within the text. Throughout the the educational sections of the book she shares interesting information and unique ways of looking at things. For example, Letran shared and pulled out in a highlighted section that the conscious mind can only take in 1% of the information that it is being fed at any given moment. She also compared the importance of thinking in positive terms to doing a Google search – the mind nor Google pays attention to words such as “don’t”. Jacqui Letran asks deep and powerful questions in I would but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! I highly recommend Letran’s Damn Mind for teens everywhere.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Smile Big, Dream Bigger – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Andrea Scott

Life has a lot of challenges, and these challenges can have a great influence on our children. Andrea Scott’s book, Smile Big, Dream Bigger, shares a powerful message of the positive impact smiling, getting an education and reading can have on our youth and the future of our world. In this full-color children’s book, Samantha is a young girl who deeply wishes her community in the mid-west were safer and wonders “why there is so much violence in [her] neighborhood.” She is one of four children and daughter of a single mom, who works very hard to create the best life she can for her children. Samantha becomes inspired through reading about leaders, and makes a promise to herself that she, too, will become a leader one day. She knows that smiling and trust in herself and her abilities will make her dream come true. She wants her big dream more than just for herself; she wants to become a leader to inspire her neighborhood and help make them happy, too.

Smile Big, Dream Bigger is a high-quality inspirational children’s book. The message that Andrea Scott shines a light on is vitally important. Don’t let the dark shadows and violence around you stop you from becoming the best you can be, and don’t let it stop you from smiling. The beautiful illustrations throughout Smile Big, Dream Bigger are very likely to inspire the reader to do just that – smile and dream. The writing and the imagery is heart-warming and helps others know they can create opportunities for themselves and their communities because everyone does matter! I highly recommend Andrea Scott’s Smile Big, Dream Bigger for every young child’s bookshelf and for public and school libraries. It’s a must read for parents and elementary school readers.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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How Mommy Got Her Groove Back – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Rebecca Undem

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is Rebecca Undem’s touching memoir about her departure from and eventual return to her rural upbringing. Raised in Oakes, North Dakota, Rebecca cherished growing up in the country with her loving family. However, she yearned for a more exciting life in the city. After a series of corporate jobs in big cities, though, Rebecca began to feel like her heart wasn’t really in it. She and her husband, Jeremiah, returned to Oakes to help her parents with the family business. Once there, she struggled to balance her desire for a successful career, her familial role as a farmer’s wife, and her new, most important job as a mother to their three young children. A long, zig-zagged road of trial and error later, Rebecca found herself and her calling in the one place she least expected to do so: her own hometown.

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a true gem in a dozen different ways. The most significant is that it is so easy to relate to; at times, it feels so very personal. Although it is a memoir of her own life, Rebecca Undem’s trials and triumphs are ones that we all, as human beings, have faced at one point or another. She is all of us, in that she is a determined woman who is just trying to do the right thing for herself and her family. Her words are poignant, yet casual; witty, yet friendly; humorous, yet so strikingly hard-hitting. It is sometimes difficult to become so wholly invested in the life of another, but Rebecca Undem achieves that captivation immediately and maintains it until her last page.

This book is anything but just a memoir. How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is an epic adventure, full of love, sadness, faith, and above all, life. Also, perhaps without intention, it is brimming with friendly advice and confident support. All in one short book, How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a shoulder to lean on, a picture of nostalgic love, and a beacon of light to lead its readers to their own callings, serving to cement Rebecca Undem as a forever “Nestie” for all of us.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Shame Proof Parenting – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mercedes Samudio

Mercedes Samudio’s Shame-Proof Parenting is a helpful guide to aiding parents in becoming the best parents they can be. Through sharing her own childhood experiences and her experience as a family counselor, Samudio provides valuable insight on overcoming the crushing weight of shame and societal criticisms about parenting. By utilizing reflective parenting methods and acknowledging the various sources of the shame inflicted upon parents, Samudio argues that parents will then be able to better communicate and grow with their children. Above all, she hopes to help parents feel empowered and confident in their ability to “raise whole, healthy children.”

Shame-Proof Parenting is not an omniscient, one-answer-solves-all book; rather, Samudio acknowledges all different sorts of family structures and parenting styles, and the fact that there is no truly “perfect” way to be a parent. Her approach is wise and supportive, simultaneously letting parents know that it’s okay to not be perfect and that they’re not alone in their daily stresses and worries. Her advice is vague enough to be relatable to anyone, while still feeling overwhelmingly personal; oftentimes, reading Shame-Proof Parenting felt like Samudio was speaking directly to me, like she understood. And, of course, she does.

Especially reading this as a parent, Shame-Proof Parenting was a refreshing and incredibly kind approach to a parenting book. Mercedes Samudio removes all guilt or blame from her narrative, and never pretends to be a magical genie who can solve every parent’s problems with an on-trend, bottom-line solution. Her guidance can be summed up as, “Hey, I get it. Let’s try this instead.” That gentle support is a welcome embrace for struggling parents; in that regard, no matter what their struggles may be, Shame-Proof Parenting is a must-read for all parents. Ditch all the other so-called parenting books; this is the one that will really help you.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Florenza Lee

The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog: A Children’s Book on Mindfulness, written by Florenza Lee, is quite similar in style to Wayner Dyer’s children’s books and Byron Katie’s children’s books. Oftentimes, children’s personal struggles are overlooked by adults or the children are told to turn off their emotions. But Florenza Lee offers a beautifully illustrated tale about a little puppy, Max, who had a tendency to run in circles chasing a tail he simply couldn’t catch. While some of the puppy’s friends turned away from him, one of them came to his rescue and taught him how to practice mindfulness using his breath. This changed Max’s life.

The issue that Max faced believing his tail hurt him all the time and was the cause of his problems ran throughout The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog. Florenza Lee did a good job offering parents or other adults reading to children a chance to connect personal issues to tail chasing. The concept is a deep one and often a confusing one, but if parents, teachers, therapists, counselors, or other adult helpers use the analogy of tail chasing along with reading The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog aloud with the youngsters they are guiding, they will find it much easier to help those in their care. Beyond the powerful message within, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is filled with illustrations by Michelle Wynn that convey the emotions and the messages clearly page after page. Florenza Lee’s children’s book, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is a must for every child’s bookshelf.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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