Everything and Nothing at Once

A Black Man's Reimagined Soundtrack for the Future

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Pub Date 04 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 05 Jul 2024
Henry Holt & Company, Henry Holt and Co.

Description

For Readers of Heavy, Punch Me Up to The Gods, and A Little Devil in America, a beautiful, painful, and soaring tribute to everything that Black men are and can be.

Growing up in the Bronx, Joél Leon was taught that being soft, being vulnerable, could end your life. Shaped by a singular view of Black masculinity espoused by the media, by family and friends, and by society, he learned instead to care about the gold around his neck and the number of bills in his wallet. He absorbed the “facts” that white was always right and Black men were seen as threatening or great for comic relief but never worthy of the opening credits. It wasn’t until years later that Joél understood he didn’t have to be defined by these things.

Now, in a collection of wide-ranging essays, he takes readers from his upbringing in the Bronx to his life raising two little girls of his own, unraveling those narratives to arrive at a deeper understanding of who he is as a son, friend, partner, and father. Traversing both the serious and lighthearted, from contemplating male beauty standards and his belly to his decision to seek therapy to the difficulties of making co-parenting work, Joél cracks open his heart to reveal his multitudes.

“I learned that being Black is an all-encompassing everything...To be Black, to be a Black man in the era I grew up in, was easily everything and nothing at once.”

Crafted like an album, each essay is a single that stands alone yet reverberates throughout the entire collection. Pieces like “How to Make a Black Friend.” consider challenging, delightful and absurd moments in relationships, while others like “Sensitive Thugs All Need Hugs” and “All Gold Everything” ponder the collective harms of society's lens.

With incisive, searing prose, Everything and Nothing at Once deconstructs what it means to be a Black man in America.

For Readers of Heavy, Punch Me Up to The Gods, and A Little Devil in America, a beautiful, painful, and soaring tribute to everything that Black men are and can be.

Growing up in the Bronx, Joél Leon...


Advance Praise

“Joél’s words are where I go when I need some inspiration. And he never lets me down.”—Lin-Manuel Miranda, GRAMMY Award-winning director, author, playwright

“In each generation, there are only a few authors who are gifted with the ability to fully capture the best parts of the human condition. Joél is one of those authors. His words pour into the well that is a reader’s soul, and take us on a journey of hope in a way so few ever have.”—Frederick T. Joseph, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Friend and Patriarchy Blues

“Joél speaks his truth boldly and bravely and I have no doubt that Everything and Nothing at Once will inspire others to stand up and do the same for many years to come.” –Billy Eichner, Emmy Award-nominated actor, writer, and producer

“Joél Leon’s fearless and heart forward writing starts brave conversations. He shares ideas that startle and inspire me.” —Piper Perabo, Golden Globe nominated actor

“Joél’s words are where I go when I need some inspiration. And he never lets me down.”—Lin-Manuel Miranda, GRAMMY Award-winning director, author, playwright

“In each generation, there are only a few...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781250887108
PRICE $28.99 (USD)
PAGES 304

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Featured Reviews

"Everything and Nothing At Once" by Joel Leon resonates deeply with my work as a therapist in the Bronx and my personal experiences. This collection of essays, penned by a Bronx native, performer, poet, and storyteller, offers a tender, rich, and emotionally honest exploration of Black masculinity, Black life, Black parenthood, Black joy, Black trauma, and the rich tapestry within the Black community.

Leon's prose is a delicate blend of street talk and fierceness, delivering an unflinchingly honest account of his own experiences and reflections. Having lived and worked in the Bronx for over a decade, I found immense fulfillment in reading an artist's testimony who not only grew up in the same borough but also pays homage to its transformative impact on his journey towards becoming the artist, man, partner, father, and creative he is today.

Leon's mastery of language is evident throughout the collection, skillfully rendering even the most painful experiences into words that you won't be able to stop reading. His ability to encourage readers to persist through challenging emotions showcases his gift for making a home out of language. It is not surprising that he authored his first book at the age of 14, a testament to his role as a thinker, feeler, and community activist.

The vulnerability with which Leon explores his journey as a Black father to two Black girls is particularly moving. His emotional maturation process unfolds on the pages, outlining his mistakes as a guide for the next generation of Black men. This collection is not a directive on what to think or feel; rather, Leon invites readers to consider who we are as Black folx, urging reflection on the art we will create and the legacy we will leave in our lifetimes.

The essays cover a wide spectrum of topics, from the intricacies of masculinity as performance to the fragility within this "decaying time bomb." Leon fearlessly addresses questions often left unspoken, such as "How do you break up with a friend if you are a Black man?" He weaves in insights from Buddhism, sharing its impact on his gratitude practice and his ability to navigate life with openness.

Throughout the collection, Leon pays homage to influential figures and community pillars, including Jay Z, Nipsey Hussle, Will Smith, The Ortiz Funeral Home, and Fordham Road. He shares personal experiences with therapy, emphasizing its role in healing his inner child and promoting positive well-being today.

The eulogy for his father, Charles Lorenzo, at the end of the collection adds a deeply personal touch. In "Everything and Nothing At Once," Joel Leon invites readers to witness the beauty in the complexity of Black life, offering a profound and transformative journey through his words. This collection is a testament to the power of storytelling and the healing potential of literature in exploring and understanding the nuances of the human experience, specifically for the brothers. Thank you to the author and publisher for the e-arc copy!

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