Book Review

It Is About You: How American Government Works and How to Help Fix It By Deborah Cupples

In her book, It’s About You: How American Government Works and How to Help Fix It by Deborah Cupples, the author discusses how the three branches of government work within the US government system. The book also discusses why there are loopholes in the system and how politicians can make this work in corrupt ways. Cupples then discusses what you as an American citizen can do to participate in changing government to fix it. The US Constitution is also included as an Appendix in this work.

One of the things I liked about this book is an emphasis on trying to change the problems we are seeing in the government by participating in it. The author also was able to discuss her own experience in running for a local office, how it was able to bring awareness, and probably influenced voters. I also liked that each branch of government was given a chapter and the author tried to explain how that branch worked as well as how it impacted other branches so they had to work as a whole. The information provided addressed the current election for President between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton; arguably one of the most sensational campaigns in US history. Many readers will be drawn to this book to try to understand government more based solely on this campaign so it was important it was included in examples the author used; additionally making it a very up to date and informative read.

However, there was more that I disliked with this book than liked and overall it lead to my neutral review. The first is that this book tried to discuss state and federal governments and it just became cumbersome and confusing. There are such vast differences in state governments that trying to explain them alone would be challenging, but trying to go into both state and federal governments together became boring and hard to follow. There were so many terms used without clear definitions that it also became hard to understand what was being talked about. I think a much better use of an appendix would have been a glossary with terms in it as well as more clear definitions in the chapters. The other part of the book that left me feeling unfulfilled was the second part of the book where the author talked about ways to change government. There seemed to be an exorbitant amount of time spent on running for office; which is important, but not for majority of readers. There was little in the way of innovative ideas for how everyday citizens could help tackle the problems of how government is set up beyond voting or talking to their elected leaders. Many people don’t know how to talk to their local government officials and while there was some information about reaching out to them in the work that was helpful, overall it was still vague. Additionally while quite a lot of time was spent on how news and lobbyists can affect the government or our reaction to it there wasn’t a lot of insight as to how we could change that as citizens other than simply being aware of it.

In all, I honestly just couldn’t get into this book. It felt hard to follow and not useful as far as insightful ways to actually impact the way we interact with government. Most people will already know the solutions given by the author and most of the information that was given in the book. For those without some background for what the book covers, I don’t think this will be a good first read for them as the terms can be confusing as well as the concepts of covering both state and federal governments in the same work. It can be a useful resource for a project, but I can’t see this book being the only volume you would want to pick up if you need to clearly understand how government works.

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