It's impossible, after reading Man Up to see Carlos Andrés Gómez as anything more than human. But what an incredible, insightful, earth-changing human he is. He is a hero. And in my opinion, this whole book is about heroes. It's about the men who are different. The men who are breaking down barriers and breaking rules. This is hidden amongst some pretty appalling stories, but it's there.
Gómez writes that at one point when he was a child his mother realized that he could either grow up to be Hitler, or Ghandi. And it was up to her to help direct him toward one or the other. Whatever she did, I would say it was successful.
And I say this after reading pages of heartbreaks he's caused, people he's hurt. Gómez lays it all out in this book. He describes some of the most horrible mistakes a young man can make. But he isn't asking for forgiveness or lamenting his faults. He's telling the reader he is human. And as a human, he is not on some pedestal. He isn't some god we should worship from afar. I think, in some ways, that makes him more my hero. He wears no mask of celebrity, even though I felt like I was in the presence of a celebrity as I listened to college students around me quote his work before the show began. He is simply... Carlitos. A young man, an amazing poet, a human who is part of this family of humans.
I'm not even sure I can tell you how or why I found his poetry. I can only tell you that his poetry became immediately integrated in me when I first heard it. It became a part of how I think and see the world. It fueled my feminism, my sense of equality and justice.
I believe the first thing I heard by his was "Gifted." A poem about his little sister. Here:
From there I was hooked. I clicked through video after video on YouTube. "Distinctly Beautiful," which became a part of my final project in Women's Studies class. "Man Up" which still makes me tear up every time I hear it. "Juan Valdez" which will help you understand why I made sure every time I wrote his name in this post the accents are in the right places.
"What's Genocide." I can't say anything about this one. Just listen:
Gómez has a way of making others see things they don't necessarily want to see. Hard things, like genocide. He can humanize someone that all too many people would dismiss. And he finds these things in every day life.
I said to a coworker, "I'm reading this amazing book. I think you'd like it. It's by this poet." He said, "Wait, first can you tell me what slam poetry is?" I said, "That's what this guy does. He is a slam poet." He said, "Oh, 'cause this slam poet named Carlós something is coming to my school." These moments, when everything comes together and it all means something to each other, this is what Gómez writes about. When the smallest things, like telling a coworker about a book you're reading, turn into a connection.
Someone asked me why I was reading a book about men when I started reading Man Up. "You're a lesbian... and a feminist..." Yes, and this book is for lesbians. And feminists. This book is for our society and I am a part of that. It isn't a hard to understand, deeply poetic piece of literature. It isn't metaphoric and full of hidden messages. Gómez lays it out, easy to understand, easy to follow. It is written in a way that it can be consumed by everyone. And should be.
Man Up is part poetry chapbook, part memoir, part social essay. And it may not give you new insight into masculinity. Perhaps you've considered all of this before. But what this book will do is give you a comrade. It will give you a friend who can help you learn to not just see these things, but to talk about them. Gender, social roles, race, socio-economic status, countries, criminals, hugging, love.
This is a book that will show you where to find heroes you didn't even know you were looking for.
|Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood|