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The Man They Wanted Me to Be

Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making

List Price: $26.00

May 7, 2019 | Hardcover | 6.0 x 9.0, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640091818
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“This book is critically important to our historical moment . . . [C]rackles with intensity and absolutely refuses to allow the reader to look away for even a moment from the blight that toxic masculinity in America has wrought.” —Nicholas Cannariato, NPR

Based on his provocative and popular New York Times op-ed, The Man They Wanted Me to Be is both memoir and cultural analysis. Jared Yates Sexton alternates between an examination of his working class upbringing and historical, psychological, and sociological sources that examine the genesis of toxic masculinity and its consequences for society.

As progressivism changes American society, and globalism shifts labor away from traditional manufacturing, the roles that have been prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution have been rendered as obsolete. Donald Trump’s campaign successfully leveraged male resentment and entitlement, and now, with Trump as president and the rise of the #MeToo movement, it’s clear that our current definitions of masculinity are outdated and even dangerous.

Deeply personal and thoroughly researched, The Man They Wanted Me to Be examines how we teach boys what’s expected of men in America, and the long-term effects of that socialization—which include depression, shorter lives, misogyny, and suicide. Sexton turns his keen eye to the establishment of the racist patriarchal structure which has favored white men, and investigates the personal and societal dangers of such outdated definitions of manhood.

JARED YATES SEXTON is the author of The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore. He is a contributing political writer at Salon, and his political writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe New Republic, and elsewhere. Sexton is also the author of three collections of fiction and a crime novel, and is an associate professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University.

Praise

Praise for The Man They Wanted Me to Be

Big Other Most Anticipated Small Press Book of the Year

“Sexton draws on his own boyhood in rural Indiana to challenge social perceptions of masculinity, arguing that narrowly defined gender roles hurt men and women alike.” —The New York Times Book Review, New & Noteworthy

“This book is critically important to our historical moment. It’s also really good—and Sexton’s voice is unrelentingly present in it. It crackles with intensity and absolutely refuses to allow the reader to look away for even a moment from the blight that toxic masculinity in America has wrought . . . What also makes The Man They Wanted Me to Be work so well is that it’s largely a personal story . . . How do we as a culture get past toxic masculinity when, as Sexton suggests, its paragon occupies the Oval Office and its pathology is empowered? Sexton’s great book points the way.” —Nicholas Cannariato, NPR

“It is ultimately his confrontation of the forces that raised him—and the traps he willingly entered into—which give his reporting a narrative pulse and humanity that the field data only hint at . . . By carefully and soberly examining his own story, Sexton deconstructs American life and gives many examples of how pervasive toxic masculinity is in our culture, like an aerosol spray so micro-particulate, it escapes detection and the mention of it is easily argued away as ‘political correctness’ or being ‘soft.'” —Henry Rollins, Los Angeles Times

“Sexton’s book provides more inspiration, though without the trite sentimentality that usually accompanies self-conscious self-improvement. He has dragged his own knuckles through the mud, and if he’s found no pat answers, he’s at least found ways to engage the journey toward becoming a better man. It’s a path that men need to walk. And we can use all the roadmaps we can find.” —Brad Tyer, Los Angeles Review of Books

“[Sexton’s] honest and heartbreaking account of never quite being able to shed the damaging gender demands he was raised with, along with the cultural and historical context that he provides, provides a blueprint for how men can confront the harm that toxic masculinity has brought them. I don’t consider it critical hyperbole to say that a book like this can save lives.” —Erin Keane, Salon

“In this moving memoir of growing up steeped in the toxic masculinity of 1980s working-class rural Indiana, Sexton (The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore) gives an emotionally intimate demonstration of the thesis that ‘men have actively overcompensated for their insecurities, so much so that they have endangered themselves, the people they love, and their society as a whole’ . . . This thoughtful and powerful consideration of the damage done by traditional masculinity to its ostensible beneficiaries will reward readers’ attention.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Alarmingly good.” —Nell Beram, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“A real page-turner . . . His lens ranges from micro to macro to capture American progressivism in action, the global labor shift from traditional manufacturing, and roles prescribed to men since the Industrial Revolution that are becoming obsolete. It examines how we teach boys what’s expected of men in America, and the long-term effects of this socialization.” —Jerry Davich, Chicago Tribune

“A contributing writer for Salon continues his examination of Trumpian America through the lens of gender expectations and their discontents . . . Pop sociology and journalism meet in a powerful . . . argument against things as they are.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Fascinating, exceedingly well-researched study . . . His combination of dramatically realized memoir and sociological analysis provides an effective, readable, and incisive examination of a timely subject.” —Booklist

“This book exposes the true cost of toxic masculinity—depression, suicide, misogyny, and a shorter lifespan for men—and takes aim at the patriarchal structures in American society that continue to uphold an outdated ideal of manhood.” —Kate Scott, Book Riot

The Man They Wanted Me to Be is the kind of book all parents should read. One also hopes it finds its way into the hands of men whose anger masks so poorly how lost they are. The tone of Sexton’s writing could not be more reasonable or empathetic.” —James Tate Hill, Literary Hub

“Jared Yates Sexton takes on one of the most important issues of our time and disarms the reader with his unsparing honesty and searing self-reflection. This is a carefully researched book on the causes of patriarchy and the damage it does. It’s also a memoir of such power that it’s hard to put down—a book that comes from a deep place of empathy and optimism for the future. This book will do a lot of good for a whole lot of people.” —Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk

“Jared Yates Sexton lays bare some of the most painful elements of his own past to illuminate the truth hiding in plain daylight—that American men struggling to live up to false masculine expectations are fighting a secret war with themselves and the world. Every man will immediately understand in his gut what Sexton is saying. The question is whether he will run away, or have the courage to act upon it.” —Tom Zoellner, author of Train and Uranium

“Jared Yates Sexton addresses the issue of toxic masculinity with an insider’s perspective and shares details of his childhood, his family, and personal experience to underline his thorough examination of the problem. Boys are conditioned from an early age to ‘be a real man.’ This book is essential to anyone who wants to understand what is meant by toxic masculinity. My experiences were different than Sexton’s, but I saw myself and my father in these pages, and its frightening. The problem is vast, but Sexton points out how to heal and move forward.” —Myles Mickle, Village Square Booksellers (Bellows Falls, VT)

Praise for The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore

“An impressionistic and often disturbing account of the 2016 presidential race . . . Sexton grapples with the Trump campaign from the perspective of the crowds reveling in the candidate’s presence and message. It is a useful vantage point given the increasingly blatant bigotry in the months since the election . . . This book reveals the incremental nature of public displays of hatred, growing from harsh chants and bumper stickers to, say, an open and unmasked gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville . . . [His] dispatches are bracing.” —The Washington Post 

“This is the post-campaign book I was waiting for. Nothing else has shown me so clearly the ruptures in our culture aligned with Trump’s candidacy, or even the nature of the way we choose a president. Essential reading for understanding this country now and going forward.” —Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

“Jared Yates Sexton didn’t just randomly become a phenomenon in his chronicling of Donald Trump’s fans and foibles, it happened because he’s our Jane Goodall to Trump’s Deplorables. His work has been indispensable to those who have tried to understand our times, with an honesty lacking among most of our mainstream media. Read this book.” —Cliff Schecter, bestselling author of The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him—And Why Independents Shouldn’t and a columnist for The Daily Beast 

“Jared Yates Sexton ventured into the dark heart of American partisanship and emerged with a warning that all of us would do well to heed. Thoughtful, compassionate, and exceptionally brave, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how—and why—our country turned on itself.” —Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon 

“Sexton’s first-person account is both candidly relatable and viscerally frightening . . . [His] seamless blending of his reporter’s objectivity with the personal evaluations of a voter who has skin in the game yields trenchant analysis . . . Sexton’s is a critical and important voice in helping readers understand the cultural and political sea change the election created.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A leftist counterweight to Hillbilly Elegy, laced with shots of Hunter S. Thompson . . . A useful snapshot of a tumultuous presidential race.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“Sexton’s reporting provides a unique nuts-and-bolts look at the campaigns, and his eyewitness reports of the aggressive displays at Trump rallies are both terrifying and fascinating.” —Publishers Weekly 

“First of all, this is the best book title of 2017, hands down. Second, and more importantly, this is the book to read if you want to understand what the hell happened in the United States in 2016. If you follow Sexton on Twitter (and you should), you know he brings a sharp eye, fierce intellect, and resilient capacity for surprise to the problem of American political life. And that’s just 140 characters at a time. Just imagine what he can do with 300+ pages.” —Book Riot

The People Are Going to Rise is a comprehensive chronicle of the 2016 campaign from the margins . . . Even with the fresh-hell fatigue of following the resulting administration, and with that campaign still in recent memory, revisiting it with Sexton lets you see the horror anew, with a deeper sense of its consequences. And as the water level rises higher on the shore, Sexton continues to be a dutiful correspondent.” —Black Warrior Review 

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore encapsulates what this election was and what it meant to be watching. It shows us how low our society is still capable of going and how a large portion is fighting back. This book is important for us now, but it will be imperative for the generations of the future.” —The Big Smoke

“Sexton writes as a reporter who experienced both life and politics in the 2016 campaign. His book is excellent . . . [It] tries to make sense of a country trying to make sense of itself.” —Winnipeg Free Press 

“[A] convincing picture of the ugliness of the Trump rallies and the dispirited feeling in the Clinton camp.” —The Toronto Star

“[A] brilliant, unflinching book covering the 2016 campaign.” —Kentucky Herald-Leader

“Jared Yates Sexton’s chronicle of the 2016 election is the first that spoke to me on a visceral level. There’s a unique value in ignoring postmortems and what-ifs and instead drilling right to the center of America, to the fracturing, raging heart of our nation, and forcing oneself not to look away. The result is a gripping dirge for who we were, who we are, and who we might have been.” —Tristan Charles, bookseller, Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN)

“The clearest thing I’ve seen in my seemingly non-stop reading about what happened to us all November.” —Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights Books (Iowa City, IA)

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