Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Book Review: "A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son" by Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black's A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son is full of humorous, moving, insightful reflections shared from father to son.

What does it mean to be a man? And what does being “a good man” entail, especially in these days when it seems we are caught between the “traditional” male roles and behaviors and the paradigm shift that has occurred in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?

In his new book, fashioned as a “letter” of sorts to his college-aged son, comedian Michael Ian Black tries to provide advice on how to negotiate manhood in this day and age. He talks about the need to avoid getting caught up in stereotypical male behaviors like refusing to show emotions or ask for help, the need to make your own way and avoid turning to violence.

In many ways, this is a quietly moving book, as Black reflects on his own relationship with his father, who died when he was 12. He also talks about the fear and uncertainty of parenting, especially following the Sandy Hook massacre and other crises.

While Black does interject a little humor into the book, it’s not as sarcastic or snarky as I expected it might be, and that worked well. In some cases he dwells a little too much on history, and those chapters don’t work as well, and he doesn’t shy away from adding his political views periodically, which might not sit well with those who don’t share them. (It didn't bother me.)

Although I’m not a father, this book certainly made me reflect on my own relationship with my father, who died almost 6-1/2 years ago.

I hope that Black’s son—and to a smaller extent, his daughter—realizes how much his father loves him. A Better Man certainly radiates love, as well as the need for reflection.

I was pleased to be part of the blog tour for this book. Thanks to Algonquin Books and Michael Ian Black for a complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review!!

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