The male child in an African home is as a diamond, an heir – the definition of permanence. And this is where the pressure begins. He is born into idealistic responsibilities thrust on him by a culture that keeps passing on the mythical baton of misery.
This cruel cycle is what Anatomy of Boys, Men and Others set out to break. Ironically, the boy child is clay. Expectations mould him. Abuse breaks him. Societal storms discard him. His perceived strength is a weakness — his extravagant ego, his undoing.
A boy is a flawed god!
He is constantly trying to fit into pigeonholes and illusive casts—trying to become, impress. Sadly, he keeps failing the identity test. He is lost and the noise in his head will not wane. He keeps groping for self but the light keeps eluding.
You would probably think of this anthology as a broken record but the curators are dedicated to telling stories the world is not ready to listen to — and they are dogged about it. Aren’t the things we talk about regularly the things we are passionate about, perhaps to the point of obsession?
Boys Are Not Stones series have become an avenue to speak of the fears, doubts and manias of the male gender—they are open doors to explore the mysteries of their makeup. The boy is a tale of neglect, rejection, abandonment and silence—and this anthology is set to amplify these liabilities, sort through the confusion, the displaced identities and misplaced values.
Also Read: BOYS ARE NOT STONES III AUTHOR LIST 2021
Like Ajibade Abdullahi Adewale says in his essay, the silence of the boy child is a danger to society. And to bolster his point, that the male child is not a symbol of perfection, Jaachi Anyatonwu paints the image of a boy crumbling under the weight of appearances:
i know boys who go to the gym, build bodies / but their souls are shards floating in the mercy of winds – [Jaachi Anyatonwu, For Boys Who Know They Are]
Beneath the bones and muscles that seem to have formed our delineation of maleness is a softness that is rarely talked about. Yes, masculinity is celebrated for strength but a boy feels too. And to quote from one of the poems in the collection,
The boy is strong / made of flesh, a body that feels / The boy isn’t made of mahogany – [Finum Isaac, The Boy]
There is a longing in the boy child, a longing to be loved. A longing that is not satisfied. Thus, he runs back into himself. He thinks he’s not normal, he thinks his cravings are weird. He shrinks back into himself—that’s his coping mechanism, his survival strategy.
There is a city in my body / one who hasn’t sighted a vehicle of love. / I grow large with desires & shrink after / at the unrealistic realism of my cravings. –[Emmanuel Ojeikhodion, When Brokenness Claims a Body]
However, in embracing and being expressive of his vulnerabilities, the boy child has gradually become less competitive as Enyi Christiana Chijioke notes in her short essay about finding balance, paying equal attention to children of both genders. For me, this propels a thought, disruptive but true—as much as both genders are complementary beings, there will always be a need for one to be strong when the other is down.
I will wrap up this brief introduction to this amazing body of work with Christian Odinaka’s idea of achieving balance in nurturing the male child: Show him pictures of war; and a girl.
Jide Badmus (Author, Paradox of Little Fires)
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