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Classics Now in Paperback

by Bert H. Hoff

This article appeared in the January 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

Three of my favorite books on men's issues and gender issues are now out in paperback. I hope this will encourage men (and women) to read these classics. The books are Allan Chinen's Beyond the Hero, John Lee's At My Father's Wedding (now The Wounded Lover), and Aaron Kipnis and Liz Herron's Gender War, Gender Peace (now What Women and Men Really Want).

The Wounded Lover: A Book for Women Raising Sons & Men Coming to Terms With Their Fathers
by John Lee
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John Lee, The Wounded Lover: A Book for Women Raising Sons and Men Coming to Terms with Their Fathers. (St. Paul, MN: Ally Press, 1995) Order on-line

The original title of this book, At My Father's Wedding, derives from Robert Bly's poem: "On my father's wedding day, no one was there to hold him. Noble loneliness held him. Since he never asked for pity, his friends thought he was whole." John Lee, author of Flying Boy (order on-line) and Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately, (order on-line) focuses on feeling good about being a man by healing our deepest wound-the anger and grief we experience from fathers who were not there for us emotionally, physically, or spiritually. He does a good job of bringing his points down to the personal level through examples from his own experiences and those of men in his men's groups. It provides insight into the types of breakthrough experiences that happen at Wild Man gatherings. His writing style makes this book fast-paced and interesting.

Since the book came out, John has received letters from many women, saying things like "I thought this book was just for men. But now I understand why my husband is angry at his father." The paperback is enriched with a new preface and selected poems from John's poetry book.

What Women and Men Really Want: Creating Deeper Understanding and Love in Our Relationships
by Aaron R. Kipnis and Elizabeth Herron
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Aaron Kipnis and Elizabeth Herron, What Women and Men Really Want: Creating Deeper Understanding & Love in Our Relationships. (Novato, CA: Nataraj, 1995) Order on-line

I have long maintained that Aaron Kipnis' Knights Without Armor (order on-line) was one of the best men's books out there. When I reviewed Gender War, Gender Peace, I stated that this time, Aaron and his partner, Liz Herron had outdone themselves. We devoted two issues (July and August 1994) to an interview with them, centering on the themes from this book. The paperback version has been revised somewhat, and does not contain the footnotes or the index.

This book describes a week-long backpack in the shadow of Mount Shasta, where men and women explore their conflicts and their inner selves. The fire begins right away, as the camp splits right after each sex expresses its grievances against the other sex. Nature intervenes to put out the fire with an unseasonably strong rain and hailstorm, which is part of the process of the group coming back together again.

Aaron and Liz's astute and wise comments are interspersed with the personal stories of the participants, as the group manifests on the personal and group level the divisiveness and need for healing in our society. As the men and women share their grievances about what is wrong with men and women in society, I can't disagree with any of their comments. As the story unfolds, the participants move from these social injustices to their personal histories and personal wounds. The process that Aaron and Liz describe effectively models a process by which we can get beyond gender war to gender peace.

Two areas stand out in particular. First, they develop the concept of "gender justice," moving beyond "Men's Rights" and "Women's Rights." The goal is not equality, but celebration of masculinity and femininity and mutual respect and honoring of the roles people choose to play arising from their gender differences. One of the most powerful parts of the book occurs when the men and women take responsibility for their own actions contributing to gender divisiveness, rather than blaming the other gender.

Second, the group chooses to explore sexual harassment and date rape in depth as their vehicle for examining gender conflict. The ensuing discussion is thorough, well-balanced and very powerful. But the most powerful aspect of the book is the participants' sharing of themselves and their stories. The people are very real, and you will find yourself captivated by their stories. You owe it to yourself to become immersed in this book.

Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul
by Allan Chinen
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Allan B. Chinen, Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul. (New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Books, 1995)

When this book first came out, I predicted that Allan Chinen would soon be recognized as one of the most powerful influences in Men's Work. Since that time, as I have talked to men around the country, I have seen how this book has changed their thinking. Simply stated, his thesis is that beneath the Hero, the Warrior and the patriarch, buried deeper in history and deeper in men's psyches, lies the Trickster-shaman. The Trickster lives in the ancient time of the hunter-gatherer, when the population was small and food relatively abundant, before we had agricultural plots we had to defend and before tribes had to fight each other for available resources. That is where the deep masculine is buried. To find it, we must transcend the Hero and the patriarch, find a balance between the masculine and the feminine, and recognize our own frailties and our own mortality.

Allan is a quiet, unassuming man who hesitates and thinks carefully before he speaks. When he does, he speaks a simple truth that seems so obvious, yet is so profound, that you wonder why you hadn't thought of it before. This quality is reflected in both his books.

In Beyond the Hero, Allan begins with an empty canvas and adds fairy tales from around the world. These are carefully and artfully chosen, to begin to add shape to the canvas. He adds a stroke here and a shading there with his simple, highly readable interpretations. You do not realize that the palette from which he draws his colors is huge, encompassing dreams of his analysands, humbling stories about the changes he went through as the vision of the book took shape in his mind, myths from other cultures, and studies in cross-cultural anthropology. Slowly the picture takes shape, as his tales add a dimension here and fill in a missing piece there. When he reaches the final chapters, a fairy tale of his own invention that neatly summarizes the themes he has developed, you already see a picture in your soul, a picture you know to be true.

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