"In my travels throughout this country, I have discovered a glaring truth: America's boys are absolutely desperate to talk about their lives," says Dr. William Pollack, author of the bestseller Real Boys. Now, in Real Boys' Voices, Pollack lets us hear what boys today are saying, even as he explores ways to get them to talk more openly with us. "Boys long to talk about the things that are hurting them—their harassment from other boys, their troubled relationships with their fathers, their embarrassment around girls and confusion about sex, their disconnection from and love for their parents, the violence that haunts them at school and on the street, their constant fear that they might not be as masculine as other boys." In Real Boys' Voices we hear, verbatim, what boys from big cities and small towns, including Littleton, Colorado, have to say about violence, drugs, sports, school, parents, love, anger, body image, becoming a man, and much, much more.
Real Boys' Voices takes us into the daily worlds of boys not only to show how society's outdated expectations force them to mask many of their true emotions, but also to let us hear how boys themselves describe their isolation, depression, longing, love, and hope. How can you get behind the mask of masculinity many boys wear? How can you tell whether a "bad boy" is actually a "sad boy"—and how do you spot the danger signals of depression? How can you grow closer to the boy you love? Pollack explores how to create safe spaces and engage in "action talk," how to listen so a boy will speak the truth about, and be, himself. In the real boys' voices here, boys speak eloquently and truthfully about such topics as shame, bullying and teasing, the pressure to fit in, addictions, how they see the lives of the men they know, the importance of their mothers and fathers, their own spiritual and creative experiences, friendships with other boys and with girls, being gay, and coping with divorce and other losses, including the death of a friend or parent. We also hear what boys from Columbine High School and other places say about fear and violence in their lives. Full of insights from and about young and adolescent boys, William Pollack's Real Boys' Voices is an important, illuminating, and invaluable book, for boys themselves and for all the people in their lives.
From Real Boys' Voices
" Boys are supposed to shut up and take it, to keep it all in."
—Scotty, from a small town in New England
" What I hate about this school is that I am being picked on in the halls and just about everywhere else."
—Cody, from a suburb in New England
" Sometimes people say there are two me's, like I have a dual personality. . . . The public persona is not really who I am. It's a tool . . . to be who everyone wants me to be." —Raphael, from a city in the West
" If you see [abuse] coming, just walk out of the room or walk out of the house or go somewhere, go to a friend's house, go for a walk, take your dog for a run, whatever. Just try to get away from that situation before it actually explodes." —Paul, from a suburb in the West
" Maybe a couple of times I used to bully some kids. I haven't bullied anyone since the shooting. I try to be nicer to people even if I don't like them." —John, from Littleton, Colorado
Drawing on interviews with young men across the country, Harvard clinical psychologist Pollack presents a candid, troubling and occasionally humorous snapshot of contemporary American boyhood in this follow-up and companion to his bestselling Real Boys. Contextualizing young men's comments on their loneliness, depression, fear, anger and frustration, as well as their hopes and joys, within his broader research, Pollack illustrates what he views as the straitjacket of the "Boy Code." This false machismo is perpetuated, he says, by our country's "oppressive boyhood culture," a plague of homophobia and what he calls the "major national crisis" of suicide (which has tripled since 1970 for adolescent boys ages 15-19). Thematic chapters cover such topics as friendship, sex, spirituality and renewal, parents, divorce, sports, violence and more. In one of the most deeply disturbing and moving chapters, Pollack talks to boys in Littleton, Colo., many of them survivors of the Columbine High School massacre. Yet his message is hopeful: the conditions are right, he believes, "to give America's boys complete emotional freedom, to offer them the deep human understanding they desire and so richly deserve." To this end, he outlines a 15-step program for mentoring boys and redefining boyhood, from creating safe, "shame-free" havens where they can open up to those who care about them, to bully-proofing neighborhoods and schools and encouraging creative expression and spiritual connections. Practical and forceful, this is an important contribution to the growing body of commentary on helping boys navigate the rocky road to manhood.