Stephen Pennell reviews a book about growing up and survival.
Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man…
Guvna B grew up on an uncompromising East London council estate and was taught to think that men should be tough, thick-skinned and unemotional. He entered the world of music in his teens and released his first album, The Narrow Road, at just 19-years-old.
A grime and hip-hop artist, he won two MOBOs, three Urban Music Awards and worked with some of the music industry’s big names, including Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child, Keisha Buchanan of the Sugababes and rising stars such as Sam Henshaw and Nick Brewer. Using his music to spread a positive message, Guvna B became one of the UK’s highest-charting ‘clean’ rappers. He thought he knew everything about what it means to be a man, but personal tragedy hit hard when his father passed away unexpectedly and turned his world upside down.
Givna was unable to cry, conditioned by a lifetime of feeling that being a man meant being strong. At the age of 28 he withdrew from the world and cut himself off from his wife, family and friends as his happy and successful life unravelled. Eventually he was forced into learning how to deal with emotion and this book tells of the inspirational journey he faced to get there.
“After the loss of my father, I realised that I wasn’t as well put together as I thought. I had believed that crying was wrong throughout my childhood, which I now realise had a perilous impact on my mental health. Through this book, I want to help other young men struggling to process their emotions. I know what it’s like to feel lost and hopeless and I think that it’s so important for young people to understand how to deal with that pain. I hope this book will inspire, educate, and spark conversations that should be happening already.”
Unspoken is an intimate and sincere memoir, exploring how toxic masculinity affects young men today. The author may have grown up in London but his experiences will resonate with anyone in the inner city. It examines male identity in fine detail while drawing on traumatic personal experience and is a powerful message aimed at young men who are most in need of guidance. It’s a book for all young people really, but Guvna B’s experience and perspective gives credibility, insight and understanding of what young black men have to face in today’s society.
You can buy the book here.