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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Could Self-Help Really Be This Fun?

Title: Your Degrees Won't Keep You Warm at NightSubtitle: The Very Smart Brothas Guide to Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime
Authors: Damon Young and Panama Jackson
Author's Web site link:
Genre: Nonfiction: Relationship humor, satire, advice, self-help
ISBN: 978-1453708767

Reviewed by Helena Andrews for The Root

Reviewer's Rating: 5 of 5

It's an unfortunate universal fact that common sense is neither common nor sacred. Too often, men and women make uncoordinated missteps because whacking the angel on their shoulder is easier than worshipping it. Plus, doing "hood-rat stuff with your friends" is fun. But for those of you lacking in the friends-with-some-sense department, there's Your Degrees Won't Keep You Warm at Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide to Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime.

Written by Damon "the Champ" Young and Panama Jackson, the two "very smart brothas" behind the blog of the same name, Your Degrees isn't the latest literary money pit for pitiful women looking to "find, keep and understand a man." Instead, the book, which reads more like a "best of" blog series (in a good way), is a case study in new-millennium mating for like-minded folk who live near a metro. The book is playful without being patronizing.
In 30 chapters with titles like, "The Tenets of Grown-ass-ness," "Love Actually ... Sucks" and "The Do's and Don'ts of Breaking Up," Young and Jackson make an excellent case for common sense when dealing with the opposite sex from both sides of the aisle. "Every grown-ass sista should at least have one *heterosexual!* male in her life that'll give it to her straight with no chaser," explains the Champ. Steve Harvey allusions aside, he's obviously right. Another universal law of attraction goes something like, "You already know the truth, but somehow hearing it come out of a deep voice helps." It's like the Great Oz phenomenon of fornication.
Fooling around also gets a lot of play in Your Degrees. In one of the longest chapters in the book, the Champ's exposition on the "19 Things About Sex I Definitely Didn't Learn in Sex-Ed," we learn that men easily trump women when it comes to bedroom neurosis. They are hyperaware of how many glasses of malbec a woman's had, whether she bothered to Swiffer the place and if she's wearing My Little Pony pj's or something "a little more comfortable."
Most of the chapters in Young and Jackson's first-person field study on "dating, mating and fighting crime" aren't for the faint of heart -- or for those wearing chastity belts. For example, "If guys you're dating always seem to turn into magicians after you've had sex, maybe they're just not that into your vagina," and "clubbing while horny is no different than grocery shopping while hungry."
But Your Degrees isn't all gynecological punch lines (although "penis politician" is hands down my favorite). "Remember; happy woman means happy man, and happy men mean less crime," writes the Champ in his exposition in 21st-century chivalry, which, according to him, is very much alive. He advises men to open the door for any woman within 15 to 20 feet, give up their seat on the bus and be the first to change their relationship status on Facebook. When his daughter is all grown up, Jackson plans to advise her to stick with a man who's loyal -- to his barber, his boys and a basketball team. "One mark of a good dude is the fact that he's able to keep stable relationships with certain male institutions."

Our two bloggers-turned-blogging authors also offer up a myriad of new terms for the crazy characters we should all stay away from. Diva Dude (any black man who watches Nightline, thinks he's an endangered species and acts accordingly), Kryptonite Chick (the psycho chick with great legs who's still psycho) and the Crazy Bastard ("the relationship terrorist holding your sanity hostage") are all familiar archetypes that anyone -- regardless of degree, ethnicity or naiveté -- should run from.
"Young and Jackson" sounds like a detective show set in 1970s Detroit. I picture the authors fighting crime with functional but revolutionary-appropriate Afros, red leather trench coats and black mock turtlenecks. They say things like, "You've just been close-bused, sucka" (page 113) or, "Take those 'work googles' off before you go home with the elevator operator ... sucka!" (page 63).
In the series finale, though, beneath the one-liners and leather armor, both guys have a lot of heart: "Most men aren't scared of commitment and we actually welcome it. We're just scared to death of committing to the wrong person. Big difference."
The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. As a courtesy to the author, please tweet and retweet this post using this little green retweet widget :

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