Book Review: Boys Into Men: Raising Our African American Teenage Sons
Publication Date: May 01, 2000
List Price: $23.95
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Imprint: Dutton Adult
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Reviewed by Paige Turner
BOYS INTO MEN: RAISING OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE SONS By Paige Turner
An old Parliament Funkadelic album was entitled America Eats Its Young. While this sentiment may be extreme, no where does it come closer to the truth than with the current status of young African American men. At no time in history has the task of successfully sustaining young black men into manhood been more difficult to achieve. Thus, the publication of Boys Into Men: Raising Our African American Teenage Sons, offers welcome relief. Wife and husband psychologists, Nancy Boyd Franklin, Ph.D., and A. J. Franklin, Ph.D. offer readers a precious gift in the form of one of the year's best non-fiction books, for Boys Into Men makes a contribution of inestimable value.
Boys Into Men is very much a hands-on book, with each chapter containing an exhaustive list of suggestions, resources, references and other sources of support. The book's reason for being and driving force is the desire to provide service. Boys Into Men empowers parents and caregivers by giving them a sense of community. Too often parents have felt alone and stymied in their struggles to rear their children. The exasperated refrain of "I can't do nothing with that boy!", is a frequently voiced concern in black communities. The book serves readers by identifying the most salient pitfalls and by offering practical advice. No question is too small, and the book answers many questions that have vexed parents for years, from sex education to what stand to take on hip-hop music.
Boys Into Men is worthwhile on a variety of levels. It expands readers' knowledge bases and their vision. Readers will be more effective in their interactions with black youth for they will approach them with greater insight and sensitivity. The book addresses young black men like worthy and likable people. Even the well-chosen front jacket cover photo of a handsome black youth shows uncommon good taste and judgment. A young man peers out at the reader, his face full of promise and hope. He is on the verge of tenderness (a word rarely used with young black men) versus toughness; which road will he choose?
The Franklins speak to readers not only as professional psychologists, but also as seasoned veterans of the parental wars. Their advice is not just highfalutin "do this, do that" but reflects their own frustrations and struggles. They take a very pro-active approach to raising black sons. The underlying message is: Do not wait until boys get into trouble to assess their needs and nurture them. The authors possess a proper awareness of the obvious perils black boys face in the year 2000: Drugs, early fatherhood, single parenting, gangs, the negative influences of some rap music and the predisposition for underachievement. But they also possess an uncanny insight into the less obvious pitfalls that face young black men, such as systemic racism, marginalization, the invisibility syndrome and the special concerns of suburban black youth.
Every element of Boys into Men is professional, well researched, service oriented and lovingly offered. Not only parents, but social services professionals, youth workers, ministers, educators and others who nurture young people will find the book to be invaluable and insightful. "We often believe that our son's problems and our problems are unique. No one has quite been through this before. With this attitude and belief we overlook the wisdom and lessons of African American elders. They parented with many fewer resources and opportunities than we have now. Many have vital lessons to convey to us from their life stories. Most know a lot about prayer and patience."
The United States too often sees all black men as (select all that apply): invisible, guilty or sub-worthy. Until the minds and hearts of those who would condemn a significant portion of our society can be properly adjusted, books like Boys Into Men will make a tremendous contribution in easing current pain and preventing future pain.