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Too Scared to Tell - Reviews

Pacific Book Review

If honesty is a virtue, why is society all too willing to ostracize those who tell the truth? Call them tattletales, squealers, rats or snitches, we don’t use very nice words to describe someone who’s willing to speak up when they witness wrongdoing. Too Scared to Tell: The dark side of telling the truth, by author Elwood Corbin, examines the extreme paradox of whistle blowing. The penalties, and contradictions, of snitching transcends age. A child or an adult can be equally admonished for being a snitch or, alternatively, punished for not saying something which could prevent tragedy. It’s a catch twenty-two no matter which way you look at it, according to Corbin. But how did we get here?

The culprits of perpetuating the bad reputation of the squealer includes parents, teachers, the media, and the community at whole, claims Corbin. Parents and teachers indoctrinate the idea into children at an early age, then the media sensationalizes it throughout adulthood. Newspapers glorify criminals and vilify squealers. Whistleblowers may be scorned by their communities or retaliated against by their workplaces. The law, when motivated to protect witnesses, is too often underfunded and ineffective. Too Scared to Tell presents a horrific amount of evidence by way of headlines, case studies and legal disputes to prove just how emotionally and physically dangerous it can be to be labeled a rat. Readers will feel ashamed, terrified and furious – all at the same time.

Corbin is thorough in his criticism of this culture, and it doesn’t end with teachers and media. Corbin also rails against the 1986 Drug Abuse Act, a decision which allows criminals to reduce their significant prison sentences if they’re willing snitch on a few friends. Corbin calls this the “Law of Unintended Consequences” and provides evidence to support just how willing criminals are to turn in a few friends, whether guilty or innocent, in exchange for saving their own skins.

Most damning, experts find that tattling serves an important purpose for children in establishing the “shape of society.” Children must learn rules in order to participate appropriately in their community. This is why telling children what is right or wrong can sound like gospel to their little ears. They use these rules form perceptions of their society and their place within it. To admonish a child for tattling confuses this perception and ultimately sacrifices a teachable moment between educator and child. Corbin provides an example, saying a child is told to never shove another child. If that child is shoved by a bully but scolded for “telling on” the bully, this confuses their perception of what is right or wrong. In scolding the child, the educator also neglects to speak with the child about the difference between an accidental stumble and a malicious shove.

Too Scared to Tell: The dark side of telling the truth is a deep dive into the culture which punishes whistleblowers and rewards criminals all in the name of “no one likes a tattletale.” Elwood Corbin is thoughtful, well-researched and provocative. He lights a lamp to illuminate the problem everyone wants to turn a blind eye to.


A sweeping examination of the costs and challenges of telling the truth.

At the beginning of his book, Corbin invokes a very familiar dictum, something every one of his readers will have heard at some point in their lives: “Nobody likes a tattletale.” Corbin points out the obvious: The idea of “don’t talk or else” permeates virtually every level and aspect of society. Whether it’s domestic abuse victims naming their abusers or criminal witnesses identifying suspects or even young people pointing out which of their peers is bullying them, Corbin’s account aims to consider the broadest possible array of what he calls the very courageous act of whistleblowing, and the author cogently examines the deeper levels of collateral damage that accumulate around society’s knee-jerk characterization of whistleblowing as somehow weak or disloyal. “Does the cultural repugnance for people who tell about illegal or unethical activity,” he asks, “lead to an acceptance of a certain amount of wrong doing, from lying and cheating to criminal activity?” The book covers various types of truth telling, the consequences, and the sometimes surprising resistance to being honest—even from those who otherwise consider themselves ethical. “Co-workers view whistleblowing as jeopardizing them and their family’s wellbeing—a regular pay check and health benefits,” Corbin writes, “and they’re not afraid to say so.” The author fleshes out the narrative with many examples drawn from real cases of whistleblowing—everything from corporate espionage to ordinary homeowners dealing with the appearance of suburban crack houses.

Corbin writes all this with a refreshing lack of fuss; his prose is forceful without being strident, and the many examples he gives—of both bravery and cowardice in the face of the need to reveal charged facts—are powerfully and economically drawn. These examples move all along the spectrum of the subject, including, of course, such famous whistleblowers as Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, whose stories are told with the sharpness of genuine moral outrage. “While
Snowden’s detractors were busy crying ‘Treason!’ (which only applies during a war) and demanding that he face the death penalty, they ignore the inconvenient fact that everything NSA was doing was not only in clear violation of federal law, but that a violation of that law carries a prison sentence,” he writes in one such passage. “Has anyone from NSA been charged? Short answer—No.” Some of the author’s judgments on various aspects of whistleblowing can be surprisingly
harsh, as in the case of his angry, seemingly hypocritical dismissal of the U.S. Witness Protection Program instituted to protect people who testify against organized crime. “Hiding may be highly desirable for snitches and criminals who live on the margins of life,” he writes, but “it doesn’t work for regular people.” Corbin’s unwavering dedication to the core of his subject—the paramount importance of telling the truth—gives all of his various discussions a compelling moral force. Any reader who’s ever faced this kind of choice—and that’s virtually every reader—will find thought-provoking and sometimes uncomfortable reading in these pages.

A wide-ranging and urgently readable moral manifesto on the importance of veracity.




The End of Yesterday - REVIEWS




From San Francisco Book Reviews

There is a satisfying arc in Analise – the mild-mannered girl who was judged too weak – mentally and physically for nursing, who chases after a fiancé who doesn’t even love her, yet matures into a woman of independent will. Overall, the story is compelling and difficult to put down.   Reviewed by Stacia Levy 


From Portland Book Review

The book is rife with social commentary and observations about human connections that are applicable today, making this work of historical fiction wonderfully relevant.  The End of Yesterday is a story that will keep you turning pages late into night and wondering about déjà vu experiences in your own life.


From Manhattan Book Review

The End of Yesterday is set during the interesting time between the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II and the hotly contested Spanish Civil War. Annalise, Mark and Jacob all come across as well-rounded characters, and Corbin did a historian’s job setting the scenes. An interesting book to read for those unfamiliar with the era and looking for a different approach than For Whom the Bell Tolls. Reviewed by Bradley Allen


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