Men I’ve Never Been (University of Wisconsin Press, Living Out Series)/May 2021) recounts Michael Sadowski’s odyssey as a boy who shuns his own identity—and, ultimately, his sexual orientation—in order to become who he thinks he’s supposed to be. Beginning with the memory of a four-year-old sitting in a dingy dive bar, sounding out newspaper headlines while his boasting father collects drinks from onlookers, each chapter highlights a different image of manhood that Sadowski saw at home, at school, or on television—from sports heroes, hunters, and game show hosts to his charismatic but hard-drinking father. As he learns not to talk, laugh, cry, or love, he retreats further behind a stoic mask of silence—outwardly well-functioning but emotionally isolated, sinking under the weight of the past.
Through wrenching tragedy and tense, life-threatening challenges, Sadowski learns to find love, purpose, and healthy self-regard. In coming to understand his identity and his place within his family, he meditates on the power of real human connection and comes to grasp the damage of his troubled upbringing and the traumas caused by toxic masculinity. By turns comic and tragic, this nuanced memoir uncovers the false selves we create to get along in the world and the price we pay to maintain them.
“A compelling and exceedingly well-written memoir that is, at times, as heart-wrenching and hilarious as any book I’ve read in a very long time. Sadowski is a craftsman; there’s so much earned empathy and experience in here that it’s hard to overstate.”—Jared Yates Sexton, author of The Man They Wanted Me to Be