Boys who bent the rules
Ben Brooks' book shatters the conventions of masculinity imposed on every boy at an early age
Few books for young readers have broken fresh ground as the Rebel Girls series by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo did recently. The inspirational characters they wrote about—“true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing"—set new examples of courage, fortitude and resilience in the face of adversity. Do young boys need their own role models too? Or does masculine privilege, a consequence of universal patriarchal systems, no matter which part of the world and circumstances, put them in a position of advantage in any case?
In Stories Of Boys Who Dare To Be Different: True Tales Of Amazing Boys Who Changed The World Without Killing Dragons (Hachette, ₹ 899), Ben Brooks focuses on a set of men who defied adversity to realize their most cherished dreams. With characters who are disabled, identify as gender-queer, or follow unusual professions, he holds up the possibility of a fulfilling life to boys plagued by inner dilemmas and social demons. Gorgeous illustrations by Quinton Winter, along with the lucidly told stories, make the book an ideal bedtime read.
With the spotlight on the #MeToo movement, the selection of names for such a volume is likely to be subject to scrutiny. Writer Junot Diaz’s recent brush with #MeToo makes him an uncomfortable presence, for instance. But a majority of the other characters are drawn from diverse professions as well as backgrounds—trans male scientist Alan Hart, the boys from the Isca Academy in England who went to school wearing skirts to protest against an unreasonable rule, the drag-wearing artist Grayson Perry, feminist crusader Charles Fourier, jazz legend Louis Armstrong, and psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who runs The Shyness Clinic. Brooks covers eclectic, diverse and balanced ground.