There’s been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity in the past few years, but I hadn’t heard too much on the topic from the male perspective. Michael Ian Black’s book is written as a letter to his teenage son soon off to college. It’s filled with lessons Black has learned over the years (as a young man all the way up to his time as a father) and the knowledge he hopes to impart to his son before he sets off on the road to becoming a man.
I’ve been a fan of Black’s comedy for a long time (I loved that show “Stella” that was on back in the day), so I was interested to see how he would tackle such a serious topic as the way we’re raising our young men. But I found that he struck the perfect blend between seriousness (since the topic is rife with emotion) and humor so that it doesn’t read as an overwhelmingly sober book. I figured out right away that this wouldn’t be told with a focus on humor though – the first chapter explains how Black felt when he learned about the nearby elementary school shooting at Sandy Hook.
From there, Black delves with a great amount of honesty into his own story, especially what it was like to lose his father at a young age. He never shies away from aspects of his story that might not paint him in the best light (since teenage boys and young men do a lot of kinda foolish things). I appreciated that everything Black described was coming from a place of love – he truly wants his son to understand how complicated the world is and to grow from that place. And even for a white male, he wants him to know there are many pitfalls to be aware of in adulthood.
I felt more hope after reading this book. It made me feel like there just might be fathers out there who will raise their boys with empathy and openness, who will teach their boys the importance of consent, and who will caution them against turning a blind eye to their own privilege. I hope that other fathers (and mothers too) will read this book and find inspiration that can help drive them towards raising future generations that will populate our world with caring and kind individuals.
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review*