Like many women, I get freaked out by male violence and horror stories in the news. When I’m not scared, I’m sad; very sad that many guys are having a rough time. What can we non-men do to help? As a physically handicapped person, I know my options are limited. I can vote, read, and write. And I have a LOT of time to listen to audiobooks. So I created a website featuring words that modern men have used–in their memoirs–to understand and explain their own lives. Great quotations by guys of all ages who share their wisdom, advice, and mistakes. That is the story behind my recent search for male wisdom in narratives. Surprisingly, the project has been a lot more fun than I ever imagined.
Take for example the account of the Hispanic brothers who were rescued–by some black men–from a large angry group of drunk college students. “This large Cadillac drives up, all four doors fling open, and six huge, fuck-off black guys from the black militant fraternity erupt from the car, shouting, “What’s the problem here? [and then give us a ride home]….” (Domingo Martinez, Boy Kings of Texas.)
More power-lines grabbed my attention: “Living while black is an extreme sport.” (Damon, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker). “Sex is jazz….” (Carlos Andres Gomez, Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood”). “Becoming a man felt bright and bracing, like a cup of strong coffee, all jangly energy, and sparks….” (Thomas Page McBee, Man Alive).
I found wisdom by famous older men: “My grandfather talked to white people, black people, Indian people, and he tried to learn how to interact with each equally….” (Thomas Pecore Weso, Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir). “[My father’s abandonment] cast me out on a lifelong journey to fill the hole he left in my heart and to search for men who could act as stand-ins for the father I no longer had.” (Rev. Al Sharpton, The Rejected Stone). “Long ago, I’d promised myself that I would never lose my children in the way my father had lost me.” (Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run).
I also encountered sage advice from younger men: Make sure…that you continue to explore books that don’t seem to directly connect with your experience…. As I learned from my mother, there is incredible power in subjects that don’t seem to pertain to you.” (Lenard McKelvey, Black Privilege). “Mental health is not a glamorous or sexy area but I think back to my childhood and how it might have helped if I’d known more about it….” (Stephen Manderson, Lucky). “I’d always assumed you had to have all the advantages to succeed. But I learned it’s not true. Ambition and passion count for more. And they carried me through.” (Jim St. Germain, A Stone of Hope: A Memoir).
The rest of these quotations, plus many more, are visible on the (non-commercial) website that resulted.
I have listened to, read, or heavily skimmed more than 100 memoirs and autobiographies by modern men: books published since 2000 that are available in English. Featured quotations address such subjects such as Fathers, Brothers, Sex, Race, and Women. Are books really important to men’s lives? See the excerpts below by Wes, Andre, Stephen, Albert, Darnell, and Tim.
Books and quotations alone may not reduce gun violence, domestic violence, or misogyny. They may not prevent suicide, nor reform the judicial system that created mass incarceration. Seeing issues from another man’s perspective, however, can be affirming, educational, and enlightening. Figuring out what to do with our anger is a challenge for all of us. I do hope that all boys and men, anywhere, can find in the website’s photographs at least one man who resembles him. My goal is to promote existing male wisdom that is hiding right in front of us: in libraries, bookstores, online, and audio recordings. — Mariana S. Tupper
“Few books offered me the opportunity to see myself—and my potential—the way Colin Powell’s  autobiography did… My own father was not alive and could not write me…a letter, so I took Powell’s advice as if it had come from my own dad.”
(Wes Moore, The Work: Searching for a Life that Matters)
“During my final U.S. Open, in 2006, I spent all my free time reading J.R. Moehringer’s staggering memoir, The Tender Bar. The book spoke to my heart…. Eventually, I asked J.R. if he’d consider working with me, helping me tackle my own memoir and give it shape. To my surprise, he said yes.” (Andre Agassi, Open)
“It’s important to learn a form of expression, whatever it may be, and for me it was rap. It gave me a voice and, more importantly, an outlet. Writing gave me something positive to focus on.”
(Stephen Manderson, Lucky)
“My proudest achievement in all my years in solitary was teaching a man how to read.” (Albert Woodfox, Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement, My Story of Transformation and Hope)
“[My book] both is and isn’t about me. It’s a book I wanted to read because too many books have yet to be written by and about the rich experiences of black people who are forced to survive on the edges of the margins because they choose to love differently….” (Darnell Moore, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America)
“I have found that reading whatever I can get my hands on to improve myself has helped me enormously. Reading about positive methods and ways to live your life, while being good to others, is key. It distracts you from your ego.” (Tim Grayburn, Boys Don’t Cry)
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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