76 pages 2 hours read

Jason Reynolds

As Brave As You

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Bravery and Masculinity

As Ernie and Genie come of age, they wrestle with the conceptions of bravery and manhood modeled by older generations. Part of the process of growing up is critically examining received values and ideals—and then either adopting them wholesale, modifying, or rejecting them. When Brooke was a young man in a Black community in the South during the Jim Crow era, he saw bravery as physical self-defense. He clings to this definition and insists that Ernie take part in the ritual of learning to shoot a gun.

The novel’s view of masculinity and bravery is complex because men in the Harris family are often motivated both by fear and by courage. As Genie matures, he must carefully observe the adults around him, decoding which emotion fuels which of their decisions. For example, after the shooting accident, Genie realizes that his grandfather is still uneasy about being outside, “And Grandpop was even tougher than Ernie. So if he was scared, anybody could be scared” (316). On the same note, when their grandmother talks to them about the accident, she says, “We all get a little scared sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all” (317).