cover image Our Boys Speak

Our Boys Speak

John Nikkah. St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26280-8

Just eight years out of high school, clinical psychology graduate student Nikkah knew from personal experience the falsehood of the clich that young boys who do not willingly talk about themselves have very little going on in their minds and their lives. So he contacted 5000 schools across the country, asking boys to write down their thoughts and experiences, in poems, stories or autobiographical essays. He presents the results of his search in thematic chapters: ""Sharing a Room"" deals with siblings; ""School Ties"" concerns peer pressure and cliques; ""Song of Sorrow"" addresses depression; and ""Toy Soldiers"" looks at school violence. Nikkah opens each chapter with an essay in which he compares his own experiences to those of the young men who sent him their writings. Intriguingly, his subjects' pieces display both a silent adolescent maturity and the sort of vulnerability that can lurk beneath manly bravado. Felix Flores bares his grief at losing a friend; Chris Chambers-Jupo recalls hearing his best male friend admit that he'd been raped eight years earlier. Boys looking for a perfect romantic love confess to the heartbreak of being ""dumped."" And many contributors admit that they require a good cry from time to time. On display are boys who pay attention to and learn from their experiences. Not a how-to guide for raising adolescent boys, this is instead an extremely revealing look at the mind and matter of young men. Agent, Giles Anderson. (Aug.)