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To Raise a Boy: Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood

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A journalist’s searing investigation into how we teach boys to be men—and how we can do better. How will I raise my son to be different? This question gripped Washington Post investigative reporter Emma Brown, who was at home nursing her six-week-old son when the #MeToo movement erupted. In search of an answer, Brown traveled around the country, through towns urban and rura A journalist’s searing investigation into how we teach boys to be men—and how we can do better. How will I raise my son to be different? This question gripped Washington Post investigative reporter Emma Brown, who was at home nursing her six-week-old son when the #MeToo movement erupted. In search of an answer, Brown traveled around the country, through towns urban and rural, affluent and distressed. In the course of her reporting, she interviewed hundreds of people—educators, parents, coaches, researchers, men, and boys—to understand the challenges boys face and how to address them. What Brown uncovered was shocking: 23 percent of boys believe men should use violence to get respect; 22 percent of an incoming college freshman class said they had already committed sexual violence; 58 percent of young adults said they’ve never had a conversation with their parents about respect and care in sexual relationships. Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide. Nearly 4 million men experience sexual violence each year. From the reporter who brought Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story to light, To Raise a Boy combines assiduous reporting, cutting-edge scientific research, and boys’ powerful testimonials to expose the crisis in young men’s emotional and physical health. Emma Brown connects the dots between educators, researchers, policy makers, and mental health professionals in this tour de force that upends everything we thought we knew about boys.


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A journalist’s searing investigation into how we teach boys to be men—and how we can do better. How will I raise my son to be different? This question gripped Washington Post investigative reporter Emma Brown, who was at home nursing her six-week-old son when the #MeToo movement erupted. In search of an answer, Brown traveled around the country, through towns urban and rura A journalist’s searing investigation into how we teach boys to be men—and how we can do better. How will I raise my son to be different? This question gripped Washington Post investigative reporter Emma Brown, who was at home nursing her six-week-old son when the #MeToo movement erupted. In search of an answer, Brown traveled around the country, through towns urban and rural, affluent and distressed. In the course of her reporting, she interviewed hundreds of people—educators, parents, coaches, researchers, men, and boys—to understand the challenges boys face and how to address them. What Brown uncovered was shocking: 23 percent of boys believe men should use violence to get respect; 22 percent of an incoming college freshman class said they had already committed sexual violence; 58 percent of young adults said they’ve never had a conversation with their parents about respect and care in sexual relationships. Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide. Nearly 4 million men experience sexual violence each year. From the reporter who brought Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story to light, To Raise a Boy combines assiduous reporting, cutting-edge scientific research, and boys’ powerful testimonials to expose the crisis in young men’s emotional and physical health. Emma Brown connects the dots between educators, researchers, policy makers, and mental health professionals in this tour de force that upends everything we thought we knew about boys.

30 review for To Raise a Boy: Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maria McGrath

    I received an electronic copy from NetGalley, and I was so happy to have an opportunity to read this book. As a mother of a son, I have tried to educate myself and was deeply influenced by The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do. I'd also read and recommended Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, but this book really I received an electronic copy from NetGalley, and I was so happy to have an opportunity to read this book. As a mother of a son, I have tried to educate myself and was deeply influenced by The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do. I'd also read and recommended Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, but this book really meets our current moment, and its author (the Washington Post reporter in whom Christine Blasey Ford confided) is uniquely positioned to do so. This is a must-read for anyone who is taking part in raising children (teachers, coaches, and parents), especially if they have been focused solely on protecting and raising up girls. Brown is clearly interested in a more equitable future, and finds lots of reasons for hope, but also doesn't pull punches as she describes what boys are up against.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Madelon

    I decided to read TO RAISE A BOY based solely on the title. I didn't read the blurb and didn't take note of the additional titling "Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood." I made certain assumptions on the title alone only to have those assumptions dashed in the first paragraph of the book. Despite this potential setback, I have found the book eminently readable and quite hard to put down. Stereotypes are constructs… not reality. The stereotypical male, I decided to read TO RAISE A BOY based solely on the title. I didn't read the blurb and didn't take note of the additional titling "Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood." I made certain assumptions on the title alone only to have those assumptions dashed in the first paragraph of the book. Despite this potential setback, I have found the book eminently readable and quite hard to put down. Stereotypes are constructs… not reality. The stereotypical male, portrayed as strong, emotionless and predatory, puts a significant roadblock on the road from boyhood to manhood. Emma Brown, Washington Post journalist, taught her first child, a daughter, to verbalize “I am strong and fearless” from the time she learned to talk. TO RAISE A BOY, written in the wake of the #MeToo movement, is a search for a similar mantra with which to endow her baby son. She felt like she knew how to raise a daughter to be successful in the world, after all, she was once a little girl herself. The human mind sometimes makes strange connections. As I was reading, I recalled a college instructor of mine who taught computer programming and networking once discussing two points that have governed much of what I do. First, when writing a program, talk to the end user… they know the job and can best explain it despite the fact that management always thinks it knows better. Second, when starting any project, he commented (holding his hand up with thumb and index finger about an inch apart) "do this much planning" followed by (holding his arms wide) "do this much work." He went on to say the converse is also true and a more effective way of getting the job done properly. How did I connect this concept to this book? Think what it takes for that baby boy to become a man as a years-long project. You have that arm's width amount of time to get it right if you start when he is very young. Who is the end-user in this project? Society. TO RAISE A BOY is written in much the same way any investigative journalist would attack a story. She did research, talked to hundreds of people, and gathered data from various studies. It is also written from the point of view of a woman who thinks herself lacking the skills to accomplish the goal of guiding a boy through his childhood to becoming a man. Ultimately, she came to the conclusion that no matter the gender of a child, ideally we want them to grow up 'comfortable in their own skin.' In light of her research, she came to realize that the mantra she taught her daughter was flawed and came to the conclusion she really wanted both her children to be "strong and gentle." I love a book that challenges my understanding… a book that makes me think… a book that teaches me something I didn't know. TO RAISE A BOY did all of these things. It is a book for parents, educators and legislators if we are ever to achieve the equality we claim to want.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hillary Copsey

    Brown covers the same ground as Peggy Orenstein did in Boys & Sex, but does so in a shallower, less compelling way. There's some good information here, but also a lot of repetition and a lot of skimmable anecdotes. Also, she inserts herself into the reporting repeatedly as a mother of a son. She is, but her son also is 2. So, she doesn't have any real information about the effectiveness of what she's doing. I get that it was a driving force for her reporting, but it doesn't add anything compelli Brown covers the same ground as Peggy Orenstein did in Boys & Sex, but does so in a shallower, less compelling way. There's some good information here, but also a lot of repetition and a lot of skimmable anecdotes. Also, she inserts herself into the reporting repeatedly as a mother of a son. She is, but her son also is 2. So, she doesn't have any real information about the effectiveness of what she's doing. I get that it was a driving force for her reporting, but it doesn't add anything compelling to the narrative.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    We need to start doing things so much differently. Brown points towards many different ways that people are attempting this on a small scale. I really hope those efforts grow. While this overlapped in some ways with For the Love of Men, it also had lots of new and different information, so definitely worth reading both. Also, I want to say the first chapter was fairly gruesome, and I wondered for a bit why she was including all of that, but she had a point to make with the stories she was tellin We need to start doing things so much differently. Brown points towards many different ways that people are attempting this on a small scale. I really hope those efforts grow. While this overlapped in some ways with For the Love of Men, it also had lots of new and different information, so definitely worth reading both. Also, I want to say the first chapter was fairly gruesome, and I wondered for a bit why she was including all of that, but she had a point to make with the stories she was telling, and she made it well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Zara

    3.5 because it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be (a book about how, exactly, I should be raising my boys), but 4 because what it really focused on was pretty fascinating. Lots about the importance of and difficulties surrounding teaching about sex, sexual violence, consent, pornography, masculinity, etc - and some new and exciting programs that are working towards this kind of education for boys.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

    So, so important. Excellent. Well written and researched.

  7. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Still wishing Goodreads had half-stars. I don't feel like I got enough out of this to give it 4 stars, but 3 feels too low. In any case, this is a very, very important book. Author Emma Brown has done her research and has gotten an astounding number of stories, including a discussion with Aziz Ansari's "accuser" (I'm sorry. That's not the term I want to use). I feel the author is very open about her own biases and her shifting perspective. I don't think she came across as judgmental, or if she di Still wishing Goodreads had half-stars. I don't feel like I got enough out of this to give it 4 stars, but 3 feels too low. In any case, this is a very, very important book. Author Emma Brown has done her research and has gotten an astounding number of stories, including a discussion with Aziz Ansari's "accuser" (I'm sorry. That's not the term I want to use). I feel the author is very open about her own biases and her shifting perspective. I don't think she came across as judgmental, or if she did, she acknowledged it. Her endnotes and sources are honestly impressive, and the statistics she includes are horrifying. Some chapters are rough. The first is so, so hard to get through. It certainly serves as a reality check, but it's also sickening. A couple chapters didn't appeal to me personally (the part about boys-only schools, for example), but that's on me, not Brown. A really important book. I'm glad I got to read it. I have a lot to think about.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve Trono

    {Thank you to Atria Books for my gifted copy} As soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew it was one that I wanted to pick up. To Raise a Boy by Emma Brown is comprehensive and research-backed and upends much of what we thought we knew about boys today. As a mother to two sons, this was an especially fascinating look at not only understanding the many pressures men feel but also how rigidly society defines masculinity right from birth. Brown emphasized how what boys learn growing up really mat {Thank you to Atria Books for my gifted copy} As soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew it was one that I wanted to pick up. To Raise a Boy by Emma Brown is comprehensive and research-backed and upends much of what we thought we knew about boys today. As a mother to two sons, this was an especially fascinating look at not only understanding the many pressures men feel but also how rigidly society defines masculinity right from birth. Brown emphasized how what boys learn growing up really matters, but it also means we might need to redefine the messages we send and how we "teach boys to be boys". Learning more about the balance between how biology and society shape us into who we are fascinated me. For example, humans, in general, are born wanting to connect deeply but often from a young age, it is not always something that is as encouraged with boys. This then results in an inaccurate idea of their overall desires for emotional connection. The subconscious messages boys are often sent are fundamentally different than with girls, and while biology most definitely shapes us, society does too. In order for boys to grow up into men who feel comfortable being themselves (whoever that may be) our interactions, dialogue, and even some of our systems need to be overhauled. This book left me with so much to think about (from how we talk about emotions and friendships, to our discussions about sex and consent) and is a topic that I could discuss all day long. I highly recommend this thought proving and eye-opening research-backed look at how we define masculinity today - and the changes we can make for the future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tawny Lara

    It’s refreshing to learn about how the “boys will be boys” culture is shifting and how masculinity is being redefined. This book gives me hope for the future generation of men.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Terrill (ReadCover2Cover)

    I thought this was a fascinating and important read. The title definitely makes it seems like it is about parenting and raising boys, but it is really more applicable for educators and coaches (although parents can definitely get a lot out of it also!). Since I am both the mother of two boys and an educator, I got a lot out of it. It was well written and thought-provoking with plenty of data to back up everything she was saying. It made me think a lot about the world my boys are going into and h I thought this was a fascinating and important read. The title definitely makes it seems like it is about parenting and raising boys, but it is really more applicable for educators and coaches (although parents can definitely get a lot out of it also!). Since I am both the mother of two boys and an educator, I got a lot out of it. It was well written and thought-provoking with plenty of data to back up everything she was saying. It made me think a lot about the world my boys are going into and how I can raise my children and work with my students in ways that will help them become the kind of people I hope they will all be. Even though there was a LOT that was very concerning here, it had a hopeful tone overall. It was recommended to me by a coworker and I've really enjoyed talking with her about it! I definitely recommend it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Johnson (Jameson)

    I thought this book would be [How] To Raise A Boy, but it’s more like To Raise A Boy [Is Fraught], which, uh, I know: that’s why I wanted to read a book about it. And I don’t blame myself for making an incorrect assumption - “how will I raise my son to be different?” is the second sentence of the publisher-provided summary. Mostly this book details all the way society, government, and schools are failing boys, often with extremely specific examples, many of graphic sexual abuse (often as hazing). I thought this book would be [How] To Raise A Boy, but it’s more like To Raise A Boy [Is Fraught], which, uh, I know: that’s why I wanted to read a book about it. And I don’t blame myself for making an incorrect assumption - “how will I raise my son to be different?” is the second sentence of the publisher-provided summary. Mostly this book details all the way society, government, and schools are failing boys, often with extremely specific examples, many of graphic sexual abuse (often as hazing). There was a lot of repetition along these. While there is some discussion of possibilities for structural change, it’s mostly focused on programs for boys in high school and college. There is very little in the way of practical solutions for parents. This is fine but it’s not what I wanted or expected to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Kincaid

    I really enjoyed the thoughtful approach, conversation, and research to back up the thesis in this book. I too was first overwhelmed with the daunting task of raising a son, and this book gives a great overview of the landscape of gender identify and concept of masculinity facing boys in today’s society. I do hope that many will read this book and more research will focus on the development of boys and identify over the next several years.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    As a mom of 2 boys, this was an eye-opening and at times horrifying book to read - especially the section on the sexual assault of boys that is increasingly happening in schools across the nation, both urban and rural. It made me really think about how to teach our boys about respect for others and consent.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Although there is lots of good information, it dragged on toward the end. The author’s use of her own son (age 2) interjected her hopes for his life 15 years from now without adding helpfulness to the reader.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jon Red

    Brown’s new book refers to the “hidden struggles of American boyhood,” yet it reads like Emma Brown has a contempt for males. If this book gains any traction the struggles of our future generations of our young men and boys will become inordinately harder.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Really awesome (although emotionally difficult, at times) read. My new mantra for both my kids will be, "You are strong and gentle." Really awesome (although emotionally difficult, at times) read. My new mantra for both my kids will be, "You are strong and gentle."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I needed this to have an age-based task list that I could tear out at the back. Pretty eye opening, a bit scary. Parenting is hard.

  18. 5 out of 5

    felix

    Good book, great topic, very important. Quite repetitive and felt a little under baked at times but an important book nonetheless.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nelson

    Great read This book does a great job at describing the sexism in our culture. It points out that males are victims and not just predators. It explores many programs designed to modify the problem and it provides useful guidelines for raising healthy boys into healthy men.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want an informative, eye-opening, frustrating, and hopeful look at challenges boys face, inclduing boys who are African-American, gay, or belong to other marginalized communities. Librarians/booksellers: A strong selection for your gender studies/parenting collection. Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Fahring

  22. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ipek

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brittani

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aliza

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve Dubansky

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

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