MenWeb logoMenWeb   

Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood

by William Pollack

Reviews from


Order on-line

audio cassette
What are little boys made of? In Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood author and psychologist William Pollack presents his findings from almost 20 years of clinical work and his recently completed study examining contemporary boyhood and the ways boys manifest their social and emotional disconnection through anger and violence. There's a code of boy behavior, Pollack says--an unspoken "boy code" that teaches boys how to act and demands that they cover up their emotions. But the author submits that boys are lonely, they are loyal, they are depressed, they struggle with self-esteem issues, they are at risk, they need to be understood, and they need to be listened to. Boys can be empathetic and sensitive, Pollack stresses, as he effectively and convincingly disabuses readers of a number of myths: that testosterone controls a boy's behavior; that boys should fit into a gender stereotype of masculinity; and that boys are toxic, "psychologically unaware, emotionally unsocialized creatures."

Real Boys presents more than the problems of modern boyhood, it also provides advice and assistance--ways for parents to talk with their sons, read their moods and emotions, and help them become confident, empowered men with genuine voices of their own. --Ericka Lutz
Listening to the author William Pollack read Real Boys, it doesn't take long to find out that being a boy these days isn't all fun and games. As codirector of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical Center, Pollack has seen behind the stoic masks of troubled, modern boys as they struggle to cope with the mixed messages, conflicting expectations, and increasingly complex demands they receive from our evolving society. "New research shows that boys are faring less well ... that many boys have remarkably fragile self-esteem, and that the rates of both depression and suicide in boys are frighteningly on the rise."

What are parents to do? They could start by listening to the author's thoughts on contemporary child-rearing techniques, analysis of the root causes of many male behavior problems, and recommendations for avoiding all-too-common pitfalls. In Real Boys, Pollack draws upon nearly two decades of research to support his theories and makes an impressive assault on the popular myths surrounding the conventional definition of masculinity.

While listening to Real Boys, it is important to remember that Pollack is a psychologist, not a professional narrator. His enunciation is less than perfect and his reading sometimes strikes a clinical tone, but his intelligent writing and the obvious concern he holds for this important subject help carry a passionate message and compensate for any vocal shortcomings. (Running time: three hours, two cassettes) --George Laney --This text refers to the audio cassette edition of this title

The New York Times Book Review, Peggy Kaye
Pollack concludes that boys' academic and emotional difficulties stem from a single traumatic event: their separation from their mothers.... Throughout Real Boys, Pollack gives parents suggestions for helping their sons, and his cousel is almost always sound.

From Booklist , May 15, 1998
Harvard clinical psychologist Pollack thinks we should give as much and as careful attention to the emotional development of boys as, thanks to such goads as Mary Pipher's best-seller Reviving Ophelia (1994), we do to that of girls. In our society, concern for a child's emotional health should start earlier with boys than with girls, Pollack says, for a boy's problems arise from being cut off from mother's comfort when he is sent to school and from both parents' support when he reaches adolescence and supposedly must learn to "sink or swim." Both those disconnections occur because society unthinkingly observes what Pollack calls the "Boy Code." The Boy Code dictates conformity to the stereotype of the "real" male as silent, tough, and totally independent, and it enjoins a panoply of shaming techniques for its enforcement. It does more harm than good to developing males, especially now when, because of renewed concern for women, boys are also expected to become sensitive and caring. Pollack skillfully cites true instances of boys and parents both running afoul of the Boy Code and prevailing against it to bolster his arguments. In the long second section of the three-part book, he advises school personnel as well as parents on how to overcome the Boy Code, and in the third, he relates how pathologies such as severe depression and violence develop and how to detect and deal with them. A cogent and moving demonstration that Hamlet needs help, too.
Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return