Top positive review
Some "Traditions" and traditional roles need to be unlearned
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2018
TW - sexual assault
Growing up in the 80s I was an art kid. Theater. String Orchestra. Band. Reading. I was sensitive, but outside those spaces it wasn't allowed. In sports, with guy friends, to show those emotions was to be ridiculed at least, sometimes outcast, oftentimes for me it was to be physically attacked. In sixth grade I told a close friend I loved him. He called me homophobic slurs, and hit me in the face with a fist-sized rock. That's "toxic masculinity." It doesn't mean that all men are bad, but what it does mean is that our culture has trained us in a very narrow way as to what a "man" is supposed to be, the emotions he's allowed to express, and how he's allowed to express them. Toxic masculinity is teaching boys to view each other, and women in a very narrow way. Toxic Masculinity isn't misandry, it's not hating men. It's hating societal norms that create men in this mold.
In TRADITION by Brendan Kiely there's a moment where he hugs another guy friend, and it's like this perfect moment of friendship, and intimacy. It was something I needed when I was a teenager.
"He pulled me into a hug. 'I think we both need one of these.' And he was right. The weirdest thing was that I couldn't remember ever hugging a man that long. Not my father, for sure. He could barely get through a mutual pat on the back. Not any friend or teammate. It'd always been girls. Why? How ridiculous."
That was my favorite part, that and there was a minor character named Greg that was a decent guy, and I'm going to imagine it's based on the teen me I could've been.
Anyway this is a book I can't wait to have in my 8th grade classroom. It's a very realistic look at sports, and the excitement of the game, but also does a good job unpacking the issues of toxic masculinity within a team structure. It looks at how to push back against it, while still being part of that world. It shows deep friendships between guys and girls that aren't based in romance or sex. It deals with sexual violence, and how people try to silence victims. More importantly it shows ways to deal with sexual violence, to be a survivor, and how to support friends after an assault.
I want this book in classes, on summer reading lists, in book clubs for teens, and for guys and girls to have discussions around these topics. I want teens to be able to unpack what they see around them, what they've learned, and try to figure out the things they need to unlearn. As a teacher, I couldn't recommend this book more.