"The Good Men Project" - A Book For Good Men, By Good Men

If there's one thing that's changed the most about me as a result of my transition to stay-at-home dad, it's how I view myself as a man. Frankly, this re-evaluation of my masculinity was not an easy process, and it evoked a spectrum of emotions from anger to severe depression (some of which I deal with in Sugar Milk). Truth be told, however, I had been struggling with my male identity long before I ever lost my job and started getting kids ready for school. If anything, the events of the last two years were the catalyst forcing me to find the truth behind the questions I had always been asking. Is this what a man is supposed to do? Am I the father and husband my family needs? What does it mean to be a good man?

It was convenient to mask my confusion behind the success I had achieved professionally--a good job, a nice house, and three happy boys. By all appearances, the answers should have been simple, but they were not. When all of these external indicators were peeled away like the dead skin concealing a blister, it exposed a painful part of my psyche I considered as endemic only to myself. In this isolated state, it never occurred to me that other men faced similar type issues--not without being committed to a sanatorium somewhere upstate anyway. However, when I happened upon the Good Men Project website earlier this year, I realized the extent to which men have been bottling up the mixture of feelings on their male identity.

What started off as a simple idea between two men, James Houghton and Tom Matlack, resulted in the newly released book, The Good Men Project: Real Stories From the Front Lines of Modern Manhood (edited by both Houghton and Matlack along with Larry Bean). The idea in Houghton's words stemmed from his own questions.

Might there be something meaningful in gathering a diverse group of men to write essays about difficult or challenging times in their lives and what they learned from those experiences? ...it seemed that the men of our generation spend a lot of time struggling to balance the competing interests of achieving professional success and being good husbands and partners and father and sons.

Houghton's concluding thought was that if men wrote about their struggles openly, "other men might recognize a little of themselves in those stories and take comfort in their shared humanity." In reading Good Men, I can attest that the book has achieved Houghton's core intent.

Good Men's compilation of essays touches on the major roles of manhood--being a father, a son, and a husband along with the challenges men face in their work lives. Further adding to the book's appeal is the diversity of contributors which include among others: a professional athlete, writers both professional and amateur, businessmen, doctors, academics, a photo journalist, and a former gang member. Given the varying array of perspectives found in Good Men, readers will be hard-pressed to ignore the voices behind these essays, some of which will haunt you even after closing the back cover.

In fact, it's the writers' raw openness in their words that gives Good Men the authenticity needed for gaining credibility with male readers. If there's one thing men are good at, it's recognizing frauds, and in the pages of Good Men they will not find a one. The shame of addiction, the tenderness in raising a child as a single father, the anguish over losing a child, the confusion of a father after a divorce, the taste of blood after a fight--these elements fuse together in a universal message that men are not alone in their journey to be good.

The passion behind Houghton and Matlack's belief in this book is evident, not only in the quality of the submissions they have included in Good Men, but also in their efforts to bring this project to fruition. I found it ironic that fifty different publishers rejected the concept claiming men wouldn't read a collection of essays of this nature written by other men. Maybe. But could that also be part of the problem? Maybe that's what our mainstream society has lead us to believe? Then again, maybe hearing it straight from another guy is exactly what men need today? The Good Men Project does just that.

To learn more about The Good Men Project and the documentary movie by the same name check out the The Good Men Project's official website.

Disclosure: In compliance with FCC regulations, a copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes by the publisher. No further compensation was included.

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