Everything and Nothing at Once
A Black Man's Reimagined Soundtrack for the Future
Author: Joél Leon
For Readers of Heavy, Punch Me Up to The Gods, and A Little Devil in America, a beautiful, painful, and soaring tribute to everything that Black men are and can be.
Growing up in the Bronx, Joél Leon was taught that being soft, being vulnerable, could end your life. Shaped by a singular view of Black masculinity espoused by the media, by family and friends, and by society, he learned instead to care about the gold around his neck and the number of bills in his wallet. He absorbed the “facts” that white was always right and Black men were seen as threatening or great for comic relief but never worthy of the opening credits. It wasn’t until years later that Joél understood he didn’t have to be defined by these things.
Now, in a collection of wide-ranging essays, he takes readers from his upbringing in the Bronx to his life raising two little girls of his own, unraveling those narratives to arrive at a deeper understanding of who he is as a son, friend, partner, and father. Traversing both the serious and lighthearted, from contemplating male beauty standards and his belly to his decision to seek therapy to the difficulties of making co-parenting work, Joél cracks open his heart to reveal his multitudes.
“I learned that being Black is an all-encompassing everything...To be Black, to be a Black man in the era I grew up in, was easily everything and nothing at once.”
Crafted like an album, each essay is a single that stands alone yet reverberates throughout the entire collection. Pieces like “How to Make a Black Friend.” consider challenging, delightful and absurd moments in relationships, while others like “Sensitive Thugs All Need Hugs” and “All Gold Everything” ponder the collective harms of society's lens.
With incisive, searing prose, Everything and Nothing at Once deconstructs what it means to be a Black man in America.
Henry Holt and Co.