Title: A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son
Author: Michael Ian Black
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Published On: September 15, 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Source: physical, digital
“Raw, intimate, and true . . . A Better Man cracked me wide open, and it’s a template for the conversation we need to be having with our boys.”—Peggy Orenstein, bestselling author of Boys & Sex
A poignant look at boyhood, in the form of a heartfelt letter from comedian Michael Ian Black to his teenage son before he leaves for college, and a radical plea for rethinking masculinity and teaching young men to give and receive love.
In a world in which the word masculinity now often goes hand in hand with toxic, comedian, actor, and father Michael Ian Black offers up a way forward for boys, men, and anyone who loves them. Part memoir, part advice book, and written as a heartfelt letter to his college-bound son, A Better Man reveals Black’s own complicated relationship with his father, explores the damage and rising violence caused by the expectations placed on boys to “man up,” and searches for the best way to help young men be part of the solution, not the problem. “If we cannot allow ourselves vulnerability,” he writes, “how are we supposed to experience wonder, fear, tenderness?”
Honest, funny, and hopeful, Black skillfully navigates the complex gender issues of our time and delivers a poignant answer to an urgent question: How can we be, and raise, better men?
(All quotes are taken from an advance reader’s copy and are subject to change in the final print.)
I wasn’t prepared to be as moved by Michael Ian Black’s A Better Man as I was. It’s a book about masculinity written from a father to his son before he leaves for college. And I’m a woman. But I do have a son who’s a teenager. And I struggle every day with how to raise my kids to be more aware of our privilege, to be an ally and not a hindrance.
“Empathy is so important because it’s the door we have to walk through to find compassion, understanding, altruism.”Michael Ian Black, A Better Man
I found myself marking page after page in this book. I devoured it in one day, finding myself laughing at some passages and in tears by the ending. In this combative climate, when friends and family are on opposing sides of the battle lines that have been drawn, one can start to feel like they’re screaming into a void. Reading A Better Man was educational, enlightening, and reassuring. Black broke down complex issues by looking at their origins, using examples from his own life and pop culture, and discussing them in a way that made them seem less daunting and more manageable. Hopeful.
He breaks down what it means to “be a man.” How American culture has repeatedly continued to send mixed signals to our sons. “…while men are meant to be stoic and quiet, boys are meant to be boisterous and loud.” He also points out that while boys are told to “be a man” girls are never told to “be a woman.”
Black takes a look at how we as a society have arrived in this toxic environment, he acknowledges that the bulk of healing rests on the shoulders of our children. At some point we have to allow them to teach us, acknowledge our mistakes, and embrace change.
“I’m encouraging you to look for the stuff that makes you uncomfortable because that’s the stuff that will end up mattering the most. Allow yourself to be frightened, to flounder around, and to fail. Let yourself lose control, reach out, let others pull you up. The ones who do will be your people. Find your people.”Michael Ian Black, A Better Man
Black tackles everything from gun violence, racism, and consent, to more personal issues like grief, friendship, and love. His advice for his son (and the rest of us) is honest, humble, and loving.
And his words on privilege as a white man are so simple but so true:
“You may feel it’s not your responsibility to fix what you did not break. That may be true to a certain extent, but I also think when you do not make an effort to fix what you know to be broken, you are actively making things worse for everybody else…. Moreover, selfishness won’t set you free from your obligations. It may forestall them, but you cannot escape your own humanity. At some point, you will have to figure out how you want to handle your responsibilities to other people.”Michael Ian Black, A Better Man
Black has written a book to his son on how to be a better man, but really it’s a book for all Americans on how to be a better human. I’ll be handing this encouraging book to my son to read, as well!
Thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Books, and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy.
Rating: (5 / 5)
About the Author
Have you read A Better Man? Did you add it to your tbr? Let me know in the comments!