King of the Wild Suburb:
A Memoir of Fathers, Sons and Guns
by Michael A. Messner Plain View Press

"By the end of my teen years, I had decided to lay down my rifle, and had taken a path to manhood that I saw as very different from the roads taken by Gramps and Dad. But in rejecting hunting, I was letting go of an emotionally salient lifeline that had been extended to me, from my grandfather through my father."

Even before his birth in 1952, Mike Messner had already existed vividly in his parents' dreams. His arrival, following the births of his two sisters and numerous miscarriages, helped complete the post-war family portrait they had long envisioned. His birth meant the Messner family name would continue, along with the traditions that bound the men of the family together. Hunting and guns played a central role in these rituals, sparking in Mike an early infatuation with Davy Crockett, war and the concept of heroism. Yet even as he killed his first and only buck, he was surprised by the emergence of his own empathy, guilt and shame, an unexpected combination of emotions that lead him to promise he would never shoot another deer.

A professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Michael Messner has written extensively and spoken publicly on issues of sports, gender, and masculinity. In this personal and lovingly written memoir, he explores these themes within the framework of his childhood and the landmark events that helped shape him and his ideology. Using a combination of detailed memories, family photographs and personal correspondence, Messner examines the nature of his relationships with his father and grandfather openly. He does so without condemning the practices of hunting that they relied on not only for kinship, but to display a deeper affection they did not have the tools to candidly demonstrate. Even as he emotionally describes the unexpected death of his father, Messner is able to analyze the deeper concepts of manliness and pride that likely contributed to his rapid deterioration from cancer. He raises these questions without compromising the touching rhythm of the narrative, transforming this frank memoir in to a thought provoking study of masculinity and the complex relationships of fathers and sons.

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