D. Watkins’ memoir challenges Black male stereotypes

The bestselling author and television writer talks about damaging myths about Black men in his latest book, 'Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments' 

D. Watkins’ newest book, “Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments,” explores his personal testimony as a Black boy who healed despite all of the pressures that come with the transition into adulthood. Because of Watkins’ extreme vulnerability in the memoir, the book earned recognition as one of Booklist’s top 10 memoirs of 2022. In a recent interview with theGrio’s Natasha S. Alford, he dives deeper into the overarching themes of the book, the relationship between Black men and Black women, and the importance of normalizing men having emotions. 

His inspiration for the book stems from his personal emotional transformation. With this project, he wanted to show the world that men have feelings and can be vulnerable, while portraying the strength behind that.

Courtesy of D.Watkins

“​​[Being vulnerable] is not a weak thing; it’s a strong thing,” Watkins said. “I wanted to put that out there, and I think the best way for me to do it would be to lock in on moments that kind of defined my original ideas of masculinity and then, kind of pick them apart as I go through the book.”

In addition to challenging the societal ideals on manhood, Watkins wrote about the relationships between Black men and women and shared his story of being sexually assaulted at his summer camp with the hopes of dismantling the stereotypes surrounding men and sexual assault. He said he decided to share his story because it allowed him to talk directly to men who have similar stories and inspire them to heal. 

Watkins said his book will provide readers with an example of what it looks like to break the cycle and heal from trauma. The book demonstrates how to acknowledge life-changing and impactful events backward to figure out how to heal and evolve into the best version of oneself. 

Ultimately, Watkins said, providing everyone with the same love is key to creating a space where everyone can experience peace. 

“We need to know that the same kind of love that we give, or that we need to give to our sister, has to also be given to young men as well,” he said. “We need to get to a space where one gender isn’t being pitted against another gender and we’re just figuring out how to create realities where everyone can win.”

Check out the full interview with D. Watkins above.

Kayla Grant is a multimedia journalist with bylines in Shondaland, Oz Magazine, Prism, rolling out and more. She writes about culture, books and entertainment news. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant.