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Real Boys' Voices
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By William Pollack, Ph.D.
with Todd Shuster

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From the best-selling author of REAL BOYS comes an inside look into the secret emotional lives of boys

"In my travels throughout this country—from the inner-city neighborhoods of Boston, New York, and San Francisco to suburbs in Florida, Connecticut, and Rhode Island; from small, rural villages in New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the pain-filled classrooms of Littleton, Colorado—I have discovered a glaring truth: America’s boys are absolutely desperate to talk about their lives."
- Dr. William Pollack

In his ground breaking 1998 bestseller Real Boys, clinical psychologist Dr. William Pollack opened our eyes to the national crisis of boys, revealed their unique emotional, psychological and physical needs and gave parents practical advice about how to raise boys today. Now, in REAL BOYS’ VOICES (Random House), Pollack lets us hear boys speak for themselves, in their own voices, about everything from violence, school, parents, depression and girls to suicide, sports, sex and spirituality.

Based on nearly two decades of clinical work, fresh interviews and research as well as Pollack's own clinical study "Listening to Boys' Voices," Pollack gives us boys’ voices verbatim as they talk about the topics parents and teachers—and friends and girlfriends— want and need to hear about. In these voices, we learn about boys’ fear of violence, the "bully culture," their deep desire to fit in and yet be themselves, their hidden spiritual side, their sense of being misunderstood and disconnected and their secret thoughts about girls and sex. Pollack also addresses the violence that affects boys in crisis, lets us hear the genuine heart wrenching voices of boys from Columbine, and uncovers the terror which has spread from Littleton, Colorado to schools and communities throughout our nation, what Pollack has newly identified as the dramatic "Columbine Syndrome."

"When boys speak about 'being themselves,' many describe a double life in which they are one person in public – a cool guy who plays fast and lives by the rules of the Boy Code – and somebody completely different in his private life, often a much more creative, gentle, caring sort of guy."

For REAL BOYS’ VOICES, Pollack traveled across the country, speaking to boys of all socioeconomic backgrounds and races, to find out about the pressures, pleasures, expectations and attitudes of growing up male in America. He found boys hungry for connection, longing to be themselves, and yearning for change. They are filled with fear, confusion, and anxiety about coming of age but unlike girls, feel intense pressure to keep their emotions bottled up inside, to be in control and to be strong. The pressure they feel to be popular, to succeed at sports, and to excel in school is leading to loneliness and shame as well as more serious concerns like depression and suicide. Today, suicide by boys is at a crisis level. In the past thirty years, the suicide rate for adolescent boys ages 15-19 has tripled. A recent C.D.C. study found that about 75% of all suicides committed by children ages 10-14 are committed by boys and that number rises to 83% among teens aged 15-19. In REAL BOYS’ VOICES, Pollack reveals the 5 key warning signs of depression and shares his 15 point program to change the way we relate to boys, improving not only their lives, but the safety and security of all of us who live with them and care about them.

"Of all the things boys across America are talking about, teasing, bullying and the need to ‘fit in’ figure at the top of the list."

Dangerous bullying and our tolerance of it, argues Pollack, is a national disgrace. Every day over 160,000 children miss school because of fears – or acts – of bullying. In a recent CDC study, 81% of students admitted to bullying their classmates, while 75% of adolescents nationally admitted that they had been bullied during their teen years. The boys Pollack spoke with described school as a place where you cannot let your feelings show for fear of ending up humiliated, seriously injured or dead. In REAL BOYS’ VOICES, Pollack offers practical advice on how to deal with bullies, what to do if your child is a bully and what to tell your child if he is being bullied. Pollack also reveals how homophobia and boys’ insecurity about their sexuality is at the root of much of the painful teasing and bullying that boys so often endure.

"The boys I met with early in 2000 in Littleton, Colorado, have a lot to say to America. They have survived a trauma that they, and our nation, will not forget."

The tragic shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado left the nation confused and afraid about the threat of extreme violence and its connection to boys. In the wake of the tragedy, Pollack traveled to Littleton, Colorado to meet with boys from Columbine High School to discuss the fear, the forgiveness, the healing and the lessons learned. In REAL BOYS’ VOICES, boys speak movingly about their lingering fear and anxiety, their deep sadness and the spirituality that helps them cope with the tragedy. Pollack also analyzes the national legacy of fear – the Columbine Syndrome – that remains. He reveals how the violence has made America afraid of boys, how teachers, parents and students are stereotyping types of boys who may be violent and how boys themselves are afraid -- afraid of being victims of violence, afraid that if they are different, they will be falsely accused of being predisposed to murderous rage and afraid to discuss the real feelings they have inside themselves for fear that they will be considered violent. In REAL BOYS’ VOICES, Pollack reveals the three key steps to help deal with and face violence:

  • Society must neither exalt boys who fight nor punish or ostracize boys who show their vulnerability—true emotional wisdom must replace so-called "zero tolerance" programs that are currently hurting (and provoking) thousands of boys across the country.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of depression and sadness.
  • Realize that boys, as angry or aggressive as they may become, are highly unlikely to become dangerous in any way.

"These brave boys have a lot to teach us about the kind of society we have become," writes Pollack. "They are clear, as we must be, that what they have experienced is not limited to Littleton, Colorado, but is endemic to America."

REAL BOYS’ VOICES illuminates the secret inner emotional lives of boys today and gets to the heart of what mothers, fathers, teachers and girls want to know, as well as what boys want to know about each other, but are afraid to ask.

Next: Read advice from the book on dealing with bullying, teasing and more...

Overview | Advice from the Book
Quotes from "The Boys" | VOICES Schedule
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