On Halloween we met to discuss @jmlbrnkly’s debut fiction short story collection, A Lucky Man (@graywolfpress). The book, coupled with the holiday inspired a conversation about the mask we wear in order to navigate the world, and about how we learn to wear those masks. As all of the stories in ALM are about black men and boys growing up in the hood, some of the men admitted that these stories resonated, opening up about many of the things they learned that, to be “men” they had to keep to themselves. Every one of our book club choices challenges us, as readers, to ask more questions. Though “toxic masculinity” is a term that’s become a part of our cultural lexicon, we talked about our own understanding of it—and especially how it demands a price of everyone who participates. In addition to identifying the ways many of the characters participated in “toxic masculinity,” some of the members raised the stakes by talking about their own participation. After sharing the story of how his father taught him how not to cry, @yahdon explained that his understanding of toxic masculinity is something unhealthy/potentially harmful given to you by someone you love. It’s the habits given to us by the one’s we love that’s often the hardest to correct. As much as men are not given the language to express and emote, the women in the meeting talked about not having a safe space of vulnerability where they are protected, believed, and understood. When men can go to women for their support, who do women go to? Of the many things this short story collection interrogates, where women go for support was not one of them. A Lucky Man shows the price and cost of wearing masks—and the dangers for taking our face and mask as one in the same.