Monday, February 17, 2014

The Art of Being Cool: The Pursuit of Black Masculinity by Dr. Theodore Ransaw | Book Review

(I can dig minimalist covers... if the book's any good.  This one wasn't.)

I feel like I need to preface this particular review, because it's going to be my first 100% negative review.  There wasn't anything in this book that I liked, and I didn't even end up reading it word-for-word cover-to-cover because it was making me angry, but not in a good social-justice-needs-to-happen way; in a oh-my-goodness-how-did-this-guy-get-published kind of way.

Here's the book's description from Goodreads:

"Addressing the challenges facing adolescent black males, this book analyzes and stresses the importance of identity development. It helps educators and parents understand the importance of cultivating a positive black male identity and how this overlooked aspect of childhood development impacts young adults. Solutions for finding a balance between academics and social activities are also provided."

But it simply doesn't come close to any of those things.  I picked this up because where I work, I interact with a lot of young black males and I thought I could read this and count it as professional development.  Maybe I'd pick up on some tips and tricks on how to better foster relationships with the young men I see every day.  Nope.

Full of opinion rather than research; biased; not useful; shoddy writing/grammar. For instance, the author mentions in the introduction that we'd see lots of pictures of his father, uncles, and grandfathers. Not a single photo in the book. Who doesn't proofread that kind of blatant mistake out?  The author finds a white man to blame for every single problem, and very few solutions are offered.  One of the solutions offered is to encourage young black men to express themselves through rap & hip hop music.  That'd be fine.  I'm all for encouraging young men of any race to express themselves through music and art.  But what about all the negativity in much of today's rap & hip hop?  How do we address that?

The author also seems incredibly politically biased.  I really didn't expect to find paragraphs trashing Mitt Romney in a book that was supposed to be about young black men.  That election was years ago: time to let it go.  I wasn't surprised to find a lot of praise for President Obama in this book: I was surprised to find him referred to as a "common man from a humble background."  Say what? 

I was really hoping to read a book about how a person could go about connecting with young black men, and how we (the educators mentioned in the book description) can help them to succeed.  Instead I got a lot of finger-pointing and not many answers.

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