How Not to Be a Boy

Robert Webb. Canongate, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-78689-008-5
British comedian and actor Webb (Peep Show) wrestles with what exactly it means to be a man in this deeply vulnerable and consistently funny memoir. Born in 1972, Webb grew up as a quiet and sensitive boy in Lincolnshire, England, with an abusive, alcoholic father. He was taught that “boys are brave” and that “boys don’t cry.” During his teenage years, he discovered his love of performing (as King Herod, he “made an entrance by stepping on my own cloak, choking”) and his sexuality (with Will, “my new Best Friend, the first thing I want to do is undress him”) and was devastated by his mother’s death from breast cancer. As he entered adulthood, Webb continued to cope with his mother’s death, but his repressed grief turned into anger, resulting in his frequent lashing out at others. Webb continued to contend with gender constructs and stereotypes, often ridiculing them (in birth announcements, parents “express ‘pride’ if it’s a boy and ‘happiness’ if it’s a girl”); he views phrases such as “Get a grip” and “Act like a man” as expressions that are debilitating, part of an entrenched mentality that encourages boys to bury emotions. Webb posits that “patriarchy was created for the convenience of men, but it comes at a heavy cost to ourselves and everyone else.” Webb’s memoir is a timely commentary on the value society places on masculine traits. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-78689-011-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-5436-6086-9
Hardcover - 396 pages - 978-1-78541-522-7
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