Boys’ Secrets and Men’s Loves
David A.J. Richards
Xlibris US (2019)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (01/2022)
This is a powerful, moving memoir that shines a light on the history of patriarchy and its impact on gay men, boys, women, and girls. Although the focus of this memoir is a personal story of a gay law professor, it’s also an education on how a male-dominated society has affected principal and influential forces in our world, from culture to literature, art, family relations, psychology, and much more. Besides being a compelling life story, it stands as a support system and resource for gay rights and feminism.
You’re drawn into the book as the author tells you about his humble beginnings. Part of an Italian American family, he’s a gay boy growing up in New Jersey, which comes with a lot of preconceived ideas and expectations. Through his personal experiences and observations, you will read first-hand how males were initiated into traditional boyhood, where what it means to be a boy and a man has already been established. And how if you don’t fit in—if you’re seen as different—trauma follows, as does violence, shame, and guilt. Richards relates stories that are sometimes painful, but honest, and these are stories most people can understand if they approach with an open mind and heart. It may be surprising to learn how men, both gay and straight, align with women when it comes to objecting to patriarchy, because this male-driven society can adversely affect men, too.
One of the most interesting aspects to me was his examination of gay and straight authors, from Shakespeare to Faulkner. Many lessons can be learned from gay and straight artists, whether from literature, cinema, music or dance. Richards shows that sometimes it takes powerful examples of the “familiar” to bring your attention to important truths. One of the strongest areas of the book, and there are many, is the author’s personal tale of how he had to deny who he was growing up and live the secret life of a homosexual. I love the kaleidoscope of themes discussed here—from identity to masculinity, advocacy to freedom. Even though the book is filled with heavy content, it also has a ring of hope and positivity. If you’re looking for a well-researched study on the effects of patriarchy, “Boys’ Secrets and Men’s Loves” should be at the very top of your reading list.