Review of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood
Written by Sarah Lawson
Carlos Andrés Gómez has had nothing short of a book-worthy life. From his struggle to find identity as a Colombian-American child and his parents' early divorce, to his ups and downs with love, both familial and romantic, to his time spent working as a social worker in Harlem, Gómez has volumes worth to share. Yet in his first book, Man Up, he chooses to parse these complex stories down to concise chapters to weave the story of a greater narrative: what it means to be a man.
Gómez deconstructs notions of manhood through a composite of fiercely personal and often shockingly honest stories. He challenges masculinity’s narrow framework of dealing with complicated emotions stemming from love, divorce, success, fear, failure, hurt, and how the restrictions of machismo ideals often lead to destructive behavior.
One story included in Man Up that challenges the “choke chain” of Gómez's own masculinity involves his relationships with women. Dating back to his high school hook ups and post-college escapades, Gómez leaves out no details when describing situations in which perceived frameworks of masculinity led him to keep women at arm’s length, using them for sexual pleasure or as emotional crutches, all the while professing honesty to ultimately manipulate them--and he still came out the good guy (I cringed a bit!). It is by pulling back the veil on these stories in such a precise way that Gómez examines how absurdly these notions manifest and how fear is the driving force in how the idea of masculinity is miscalculated in action.
While the voice and lens of the book is undeniably Gómez's, he uses this brilliant yet accessible narrative to look at masculinity through angles of varying races, genders, sexual orientations, and positions of privilege. The best part about this book is not only its extraordinary honesty, but the way Gómez weaves the path of his own manhood, without ever absolving himself as the ‘bad guy’ in some of these stories. He does a great job at not excusing his actions. He never claims that he is the perfect man or that he has all the answers. He simply uses his life (each chapter a novel in its own right), to put masculinity under a microscope, to challenge patterns of patriarchy, and to do some serious navigating through the complex ideals of what it truly means to “man up.”
Join us on Wednesday November 7th for a special author event with Carlos Andrés Gómez at Busboys and Poets! More info here.
Carlos Andrés Gómez is an award-winning poet, actor and writer. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was named Artist of the Year at the 2009 Promoting Outstanding Writers Awards. He was a featured performer at the 2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, and performed alongside poets from the DC Youth Poetry Slam at the festival. He costarred in the Spike Lee film Inside Man and appeared in the sixth season of HBO Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. He lives in New York City. Man Up is his first book.
Sarah D. Lawson is the founder and slam master of the Beltway Poetry Slam, DC’s premier poetry slam. She can be found teaching writing workshops throughout the city, sharing rough drafts on open mics and hosting at Busboys & Poets 5th and K. She has served on the board of mothertongue DC, DC's women's spoken word group, and was a member of the Jenny McKean Moore Writing Workshop in poetry at the George Washington University. Sarah is coach of the Madeira poetry club, which placed second in DC's Louder Than A Bomb Teen Poetry competition. She was also a member of DC's Team Treat Yo Self, which ranked 5th at the 2012 Southern Fried Poetry Slam.