A useful, highly readable overview of an important social phenomenon.




Guys just wanna have fun.

Kimmel (Sociology/SUNY Stony Brook; Manhood in America: A Cultural History, 2005, etc.) offers an engaging account of young males in the “Guyland” stage of life—the years between 16 and 26—when they are neither kids nor grown-ups but rather direction-less “guys” who shirk adult responsibilities and bond crudely with other males in the nonstop pursuit of sex, drinking, sports, video games and other amusements. Based on nearly 400 interviews with mainly white, middle-class, college-educated youths, the author’s findings are at once commonsensical and provocative, demonstrating the prevalence of this lifestyle of entitlement and instant gratification. The book raises important questions about a “guy code” of silence that encourages them to disregard the sometimes extreme behaviors (binge drinking, bullying, predatory sex, etc.) of other males. Made possible by massive social and economic changes—the sexual revolution, delayed marriage and child-rearing, the poor job market—members of this 22-million-strong demographic live in the shared-apartments world of Friends, absorbed in escapist entertainment (porn, online poker), getting as much sex as they can, working in dead-end “McJobs” and avoiding serious, responsible lives as fathers and workers. Kimmel quotes guys from across the country to show the importance of “the cardinal rule of masculinity—“Don’t cry,” their obsession with sports talk (“the last ‘pure’ all-male space in America”) and their reliance on their peers to usher them into adulthood. Parents with young-adult males living at home will immediately recognize these guys, who stay up all hours with media, engage in casual sex and maintain a manly front at all times with the putdown, “That’s so gay.” Bored, anxious, uncertain and ill-prepared for emotional intimacy, they are in need of adult mentoring and a new model of masculinity, says Kimmel, one that encourages them to live more consciously and honorably while permitting “wholesome occasional irresponsibility.”

A useful, highly readable overview of an important social phenomenon.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-083134-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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