Quarto Schedules Richard V. Reeves’ ‘Yes, Boys Can!’ for Frankfurt

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

A new book from Quarto, ‘Yes, Boys Can!’ publishes in October, based on ‘HEAL’ professions: health, education, the arts, and literacy.

Details from Chris King’s illustrations for 15 of the 50 HEAL professionals featured in the forthcoming Quarto book, ‘Yes, Boys Can!’ by Richard V. Reeves and Jonathan Juravich. Images: Quarto/Quarry Books

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Reeves: ‘Gender Gaps Matter in Both Directions’
A bit over a year ago, when Publishing Perspectives interviewed the British-American Brookings nonresident senior fellow Richard V. Reeves about his book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It (Brookings Institution Press), it came to light that another book was a possibility.

Senior acquiring editor Jonathan Simcosky at the Quarto Publishing Group‘s Quarry Books was in development with the imprint’s She Can STEM: 50 Trailblazing Women in Science From Ancient History to Today by Liz Lee Heinecke, which was released earlier this year (Quarry, February 13). Simcosky was working on proposing a second book. The title then might have been He Can HEAL, a book that—like She Can STEM—might empower boys to think of professions more often considered by women, professions that need men.

The phrase He Can HEAL comes from Reeves’ Of Boys and Men, with HEAL an acronym for health, education, administration, and literacy. In Of Boys and Men‘s eleventh chapter, Reeves  introduces one of his book’s key concepts to readers with an anecdote that seems to be remembered by almost any reader of the book you ask today:

“Cameron was about 6 when I was driving him home after seeing the doctor,” Reeves writes. ‘Dad,’ he said, ‘I didn’t know that men could be doctors.’ I was perplexed for a moment. Then I realized that the two or three doctors he had previously encountered happened to have been women, which was not odd given that more than half of the primary care doctors in the UK are female. Having encountered only women working as doctors, it was reasonable for him to wonder if men could do that job.

“I reassured him that men could indeed be doctors,” Reeves writes, “but I was careful to add, ‘and nurses, of course.’ The elementary school our sons attended had an all-female staff, too, so it also took a while to convince them that men could also be teachers.”

“We have to learn from our past and imagine a new future. And maybe paying some attention to boys is the next frontier for gender equity.”Jonathan Simcosky, Quarto/Quarry Books

Simcosky, an energetic soul with a bright laugh, is not an editor to look past a good challenge and a nearby expert. He engaged Reeves and Jonathan Juravich, who is, like Reeves, a veteran TED-Talker. Juravich is an Ohio-based educator who was named National Elementary Art Teacher of the Year by the National Art Education Association.

And together, Reeves and Juravich have co-authored Yes, Boys Can! Inspiring Stories of Men Who Changed the World, with the West Yorkshire-based illustrator Chris King.

With She Can STEM now on the market, Yes, Boys Can! is scheduled for a release on October 22. Frankfurt trade visitors will find it at the Quarto stand at Frankfurter Buchmesse, October 16 to 20.

50 Profiles of Men in Health, Education, Arts, Literacy

The contents pages of Quarto-Quarry’s ‘Yes, Boys Can!’ feature the book’s profiles of 50 men in HEAL professions (health, education, arts, and literacy), from historic figures like Walt Whitman (nurse and poet) to Booker T. Washington (teacher) to contemporary luminaries including Tom Daley (springboard diver and knitter) and Preston Dyer (social worker). Image: Quarto/Quarry Books

In the introduction to his new book, Yes, Boys Can!, Reeves repeats his anecdote about his son Cameron’s surprise at meeting a male doctor, and now writes:

Richard V. Reeves

“Stop to consider this for a moment. Women were not even allowed to be doctors for most of human history! For women to be the only doctors in Cameron’s world shows how relatively quickly and overwhelmingly stereotypes can be overcome. I told Cameron then, and I am telling you now, yes, men can be doctors! But just as important, men can be nurses, too. … There are no rules about what jobs men can do. This book is about the sorts of jobs that are sometimes wrongly seen as jobs for women but are just as much for men.”

The urgency of 0vercoming stereotypes for many men and society is something Reeves recognized and began quantifying while researching Of Boys and Men.

One of the affable, committed Reeves’ most compelling traits is his grasp of rigorous research and its importance when advocating changes that some don’t want to consider. Having studied a kind of labor exchange underway amid the exhilarating rise of so many young women’s accomplishments and so many young men’s depression and difficulties, he could easily parse the “win-win-win” of helping young men understand the importance of looking at the “HEAL” professions. He wrote:

“First, given the decline in traditional male occupations, it is imperative that men look to these sectors for jobs. Second, diversifying these professions would also help to meet their growing demand for labor. Third, it would make it more likely that boys and men could find male providers of these services. So getting men into HEAL occupations would be good for men, good for the professions, and good for clients—a win-win-win.”

The American Institute for Boys and Men

An amazing amount of progress has been made by Reeves and his team since the autumn 2022 publication of Of Boys and Men. Reeves not only has founded the American Institute for Boys and Men, but as he announced on May 28, he has been chosen by philanthropist Melinda French Gates to receive one of the 12 US$20 million grants she’s providing as grant-making funds to “people whose work I admire to distribute as he or she sees fit.”

Melinda French Gates

When she was interviewed on CBS News’ This Morning about her choices for these valuable grants, she said that Reeves and the American Institute for Boys and Men is one of the recipients because “she believes that having good men and boys in society is beneficial, as they can be excellent partners for women and help support their progress.” In fact, Gates also issued a grant to Gary Barker, who leads Equimundo, a center for masculinities and social justice.

And Reeves’ work has attracted a faster and warmer reception than many might have expected, not least because he’s insistent that supporting and nourishing boys and men doesn’t mean abandoning women’s ongoing need for progress, but, instead enriching it.

Spanish cover: Deusto, translation by María Maestro Cuadrado

At last check, the translation rights  Of Boys and Men had sold its translation rights sold (Vanessa Kerr at Toby Mundy’s Aevitas agency in London) into:

  • The United Kingdom: Swift Press
  • Germany: Xenomoi Verlag
  • Spain: Ediciones Deusto
  • Poland: TNSA
  • Russia: AST
  • Croatia: Naklada OceanMore
  • South Korea: Minumsa
  • China: Tao Zhi Yao Culture
  • Japan: Ohta Publishing House
  • Arabic: Jadal

When Swift Press’ Mark Richards and Diana Broccardo bought the UK rights to the book and published it with modest market expectations, they sold 20,000 copies in the first year. Broccardo would go on to speak at London Book Fair this year in March about their experience with the book.

‘Boys and Men Have Now Fallen Behind’

Much of what Reeves is getting at—and trying to raise the alarm about—was recently encapsulated as the news of Gates’ grant brought new interest to his work. He wrote:

US cover: Brookings

“Of course there remain many gender gaps where women and girls remain at a disadvantage, especially in terms of pay, senior positions of leadership, access to venture capital, and so on. But in advanced economies, there are also gender gaps where boys and men have now fallen behind, especially if they are Black or from a lower-income background. In the United States for example:

  • “The gender gap in higher education is wider today than it was in 1972, when Title IX was passed, but the other way round, with men earning only 42 percent of degrees
  • “In the average school district, boys are almost a grade level behind girls in English language arts (there is no gap in math)
  • “The risk of suicide is four times higher for boys and men than their female peers and has risen by more than a third among younger men since 2010
  • “Male deaths before the age of 65 resulted in more than 4 million years of potential life lost in 2022, three times the number for women
  • “Employment rates among Black men are lower than for white men, white women, and Black women

UK cover: Swift Press

“What should advocates for gender equality make of these facts? Until recently, the standard response has been to ignore them, on the grounds that gender equality is exclusively a women’s issue. This is a mistaken approach. If gender gaps matter, they matter in both directions. Excluding boys and men also makes it easier for reactionary voices to claim that gender equality is in conflict with the interests of boys and men.

“The much better response is to expand the reach of gender equality to include the issues of boys and men. The point is not that young women do not have problems. It is that boys and young men do as well. Two things can be true at the same time.”

‘Proud To Bring It Into the World’

Jonathan Simcosky at Quarto beams when he talks about seeing the profiles of the 50 Yes, Boys Can! men written by Reeves and Juravich.

  • Here is teacher Babak Mashhadi Ebrahim, a father of two girls, who found that girls were underrepresented in his math and computer science classrooms. He founded a Cyber Girls team among his students, coordinating with the UK’s National Cyber Security Center and worked “to ensure that all opportunities available for his male students were accessible to his female students.”
  • And here’s the Cardiff-born Welsh nurse Sir Jonathan Elliott Asbridge, knighted by the Crown for advancing the nursing profession.
  • Another featured HEAL luminary is the Cherokee Nation’s Ronald G. Lewis, whose expertise enabled the 1978 creation of the US Indian Child Welfare Act which created rules for adopting Native American children in the States.
  • And here’s Kenya’s Peter Tabichi, an articulate Franciscan friar whose efforts to upgrade rural education have been so successful that he has won the Global Teacher Prize, being awarded $1 million with which he could bring wi-fi, a commputer lab, and clean water to his students. Tabichi addressed the International Publishers Association’s (IPA) at its “Africa Rising” Regional Seminar in Nairobi at the invitation of then-IPA vice-president Bodour Al Qasimi.

Simcosky points to the Quarto culture as being a good one for this book’s development.

Jonathan Simcosky

“The Quarto culture is very open to what’s new and what’s next, and to publishing emerging voices for niche audiences,” he says.

“I think it was a little surprising” for some on the staff “that it was about boys. It’s not something that we’re used to hearing about. But the argument, the presentation made sense” in a house that focuses on content for readers of many interests and activities.

Granted, he says, there can be healthy skepticism around this and any project “whenever we publish something that’s on the leading edge. There hasn’t been a lot done in this space, and so this was mainly about wanting to make sure that we’re doing it the right way.”

Simcosky points out that Reeves in his leadership “does a really good job of always talking about how supporting boys and men doesn’t take anything away from girls and women, who are still struggling in their own ways. That fight is not over, either.

“So I think it’s like entering a new phase of civilization. We have to learn from our past and imagine a new future. And maybe paying some attention to boys is the next frontier for gender equity.”

Stressing, as Reeves does, that both genders need support and intelligent care—and particularly pleased that it’s worked out for Quarry Books to publish both She Can STEM and Yes, Boys Can!—Simcosky, breaks into a smile: “I’m proud to bring it into the world. I think it’s going to be a good one.”

Details from Chris King’s illustrations for 15 of the 50 HEAL professionals featured in the forthcoming Quarto book, ‘Yes, Boys Can!’ by Richard V. Reeves and Jonathan Juravich. Images: Quarto/Quarry Books

Update: On June 22, the day after our publication of this story, The New York Times ran Claire Cain Miller’s article Boys are Struggling. Male Kindergarten Teachers Are Here to Help, in which  Richard Reeves is quoted and it’s revealed that “only around 3 percent of kindergarten teachers are men.” In it, Reeves says, “I really worry that the very idea of educational success is becoming increasingly female-coded.” If boys are “seeing education as not for them,” he said, “that’s the risk.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on nonfiction is here, more on issues in men’s and boys’ reading is here, and more on independent publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.