Note: Since I've been in the same places and similar situations to the author of this book, this review will be a little more personal than usual.
Entertainment journalist Jeremy Helligar leaves his job and life in New York to travel the world. In this collection of blog posts, articles and musings we follow Jeremy as he settles first in Buenos Ares, then Melbourne, with long stints in Bangkok. As Jeremy writes about his efforts to connect to the men as well as the places he lives in, the comparisons to “Sex and the City” are obvious and not missed on the author. Where-ever he goes, one question Jeremy gets from the guys he meets is so consistent that he titled the book with it.
Consider it a spoiler if you will, but it should probably come as no surprise that Jeremy never really answers the question posed by his title. It's more just a jumping-off point to talk about how much race has to do with so many aspects of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. But it wouldn't be accurate to portray this book as all about race. Despite the title, “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” is more about a personal journey than it is about race. It's just that, for Jeremy, the subject of his skin color is never far from people's minds. In Buenos Ares, and even more so in Bangkok, Jeremy is an “exotic” man.
Of course, in Bangkok, even whiter-than-white me was considered exotic. That was part of the attraction, at first. As Jeremy quickly realizes, it's a double-edged sword. You might get a lot of attention, but not all of it is necessarily what you want. And then for Jeremy there's almost always that question. Jeremy struggles with being objectified — yes, it really can happen to guys — by some of the men he meets.
Even when he manages to get past the superficial and make a connection with someone, things don't always go well. Sometimes the issues are cultural, and sometimes it just wasn't meant to be. Jeremy documents it all, although not always in an entirely linear fashion. Jeremy is obviously a smart guy. He realizes very quickly that an expat is always an outsider, no matter how long they stay or how well they try to fit in — it took me almost 20 years to figure that out. But being savvy doesn't keep him from making mistakes. Love makes fools of us all.
“Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” is available from Amazon.