An ultimately encouraging exploration that aims to show men how to throw off societal expectations.

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THE CHALLENGES OF MASCULINITY

A thorough study of what it means to be a man in modern society.

Erikson’s nonfiction debut, aimed at both male and female readers, opens with what he considers to be fundamental questions of masculinity: “Am I a man?” “When will I be a man?” and “What do I have to do to become a man?” Backing and informing such questions is a concept that Erikson refers to as “Required Masculinity,” a series of expectations that he says society imposes on men, chiefly characterized by “dominance, power, control, wealth, and high sexuality.” In the author’s analysis, masculinity comprises three related, intersecting elements: a man’s “Tools,” the actual methods he has with which to express himself; a man’s “Intention,” the guiding ethos by which he uses those tools; and the level of “Acceptance” that a man is granted by society at large by expressing himself. Erikson points out that the daily existence of most men, especially young men, is a constant negotiation between “Required Masculinity” and their own personal inclinations and preferences. Men confront society’s gender stereotypes, the author says, which include that men should only care about money and power, or that men shouldn’t have close friendships with other men, because all other men are supposedly potential enemies. This thoughtful book effectively traces these and other stereotypes through the contemporary world of TV, movies, and advertising, and also through quick glimpses of how various forces throughout history have shaped the male ideal. He notes that, in the various men’s groups he’s joined or led, men have complained about the stress of competing for this essentially unreachable ideal. By clearly laying out and examining the various forces working on contemporary men, Erikson’s book methodically constructs ways for male readers to escape from the trap of “Required Masculinity,” and work instead toward “Personal Masculinity,” a more honest, sustainable expression of the self. The book’s bracing second half is a step-by-step workshop for how to do this, and many readers will find it very helpful and clarifying.

An ultimately encouraging exploration that aims to show men how to throw off societal expectations.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-3999-0

Page Count: 188

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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