“Please Replace the Acknowledgements Page of My Novel with This,” by Michael Don

Jan 3rd, 2024 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

My debut novel has been out for six months and it’s clear from its lack of social media buzz and list-making that it’s complete garbage. Since its release, I have felt nothing but shame and regret. Though I can’t unpublish the book—right?—I would like to take a moment to blame everyone who has encouraged and supported me along the way.

First, I’d like to blame my parents. It all starts with you. From an early age, you taught me to work hard and persist in the face of setback. You encouraged me to try new things until I found the ones I loved and cared about. Our family motto was: You can do anything you put your mind to but feel free to change gears if you’re just not that into it. You discouraged me from selling my soul to a corporation that was destroying the environment and exploiting workers. You paid for my college without requiring I major in a STEM field. I will never forgive you for your unconditional love and support.

Next, I’d like to blame my writing group. They read early drafts of my novel and offered so much affirmation that I just had to keep writing. As they well know, words matter, and their words stuck with me. Genevieve McEwan commented, “Your characters are eccentric yet relatable and likeable.” Diego Ramirez-Katz declared, “You’re writing the Great Suburban Novel.” It’s this kind of praise from fellow writers that motivated me to put my head down and focus on writing while completely forgetting to build a brand, audience, marketing plan, etc.

I blame the literary journals (Five Bars Review, Hot Asphalt Quarterly, and Tone Deaf) in which excerpts of my novel first appeared. Though it turns out no one outside of the writers who submit to these journals has ever heard of them, it still meant a lot that they liked my work, which in turn led me to believe I had a built-in audience, which in turn would bring me recognition and possibly fame. Their commitment to supporting emerging writers out of their own pockets on a volunteer-basis is shady and confusing.

I blame my therapist for teaching me self-compassion. It’s this kind of talking back to yourself that leads you to push all doubt aside and blindly pursue your passion. The work we did in our sessions, the thoughtful treatment plan you devised, the language you gave me to track my consciousness helped get me to a place where I could drown out all the unproductive noise in my head. It turns out that noise may have steered me toward a more productive endeavor.

Most of all, I blame my wife. Whenever I expressed self-doubt, you hugged me and reassured me that I have an interesting brain and lots of good ideas. A ferocious reader of fiction, you gave me thoughtful comments along the way and helped me give nuance to otherwise one-dimensional female characters. You insisted I attend writing residencies in beautiful places. You of all people could have stopped this book from getting written. The time you’ve given me, your belief in my talent, the extra domestic labor you’ve taken on, is selfless and irresponsible.

Lastly, I blame my publisher. Were you trying to ruin my life? Do you know how many writers are out there with on-trend manuscripts and more than 57 followers? You said you loved the book, but did you even read it? Are you aware you used real paper from real trees? Publishing this book was delusional and reckless.

If I am ever able to recover from this, only then will I be able to forgive each of you for your support and encouragement. For now, I’m sliding into parental rights forums, hoping to drum up enough outrage to get my great suburban novel banned— just in case anyone is ever tempted to read it.


Michael Don is the author of the story collection Partners and Strangers (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019) and is an assistant professor at George Mason University. He grew up six miles from the Mississippi River in a midwestern city where you have to tell a joke to get candy on Halloween.

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