Sunday, August 11, 2019

Adib Khorram: Dismantling Toxic Masculinity Through Young Adult Literature

Darius the Great is Not Okay
Adib Khorram is the debut author of Darius the Great is Not Okay, which won the William C. Morris Award, among others. He started by acknowledging that we are on Yannga-Tongva tribal land, and recommended we read the adaptation of An Indigenous People's History of the United States.

His talk was about toxic masculinity: what it means, why it's harmful, and how literature can be used to examine, deconstruct, and dismantle the system.

Here's a definition of toxic masculinity by Harris O'Malley:

And here are three characteristics of toxic masculinity:
  • Entitlement: you believe you are entitled to something because you are a man. (Incel culture is an example.) 
  • Domination over others. It often leads to violence.
  • Rejecting vulnerability and emotions because they're associated with the feminine.
"If you don't account for systems of power in your writing, you are tacitly upholding them," Adib said. 

Adib talked about books that unpack toxic masculinity:

  • Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  • Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton
  • Black Wings Beating by Alex London
  • We'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss
  • Tradition by Brendan Kiely
And here are books that model healthy masculinity

  • When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (offers a non-white version) 
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay 

Rape culture is also an insidious feature of toxic masculinity. Books that address it well:

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

What does healthy masculinity like? 

"I fuckin' love you, bro." Guys can admit affection as long as there's a swear word in front of it.

He showed us a Gillette ad on the subject, which he hopes as a sign that the tide is turning:

He's trying to keep up with his own reading, consider the stories of additional marginalized voices, including trans and non-binary voices, disabled voices.

Follow Adib on Twitter, and Instagram.

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