Books, UEA Live

Men, Masculinity and Memories: Raven Smith at UEA Live

UEA Live concluded in an epic way with the hilarious Raven Smith. As soon as he sat down at the front of the lecture theatre, he was cracking jokes and making the audience feel like we were part of the conversation. In talk with Dr Sarah Godfrey, Smith dived into his latest book, Raven Smith’s Men, part memoir, part commentary on the trials and tribulations of masculinity.

Throughout the event, I couldn’t take my eyes off him; he’s a natural performer, allowing his personality to shine from the very beginning. He started off by reading the introduction, wiggling his eyebrows in all the right places as he divulged exactly what we’d be in for. In his book, he reminisces about the men who’ve impacted his life and his ideas of what it means to be a man, whether it’s his stepdad, an ex-boyfriend, or himself. It’s his way of recognising the issues of the patriarchy, as well as celebrating his love. This book is a perfect blend of comedy and honesty, and it will 100% make you laugh out loud.

Upon being asked what made him write this book, Smith replied by telling us that it was born in lockdown; “like all of you, I was stuck at home with nothing but my thoughts for company. I realised that nearly every recollection had a man in it in some way.” Sifting through these memories, Smith realised he wanted to write a book about the men in his life, whilst moving away from his first book, Raven Smith’s Trivial Pursuits, which he joked was “like Lily Allen’s Smile – I’m over it.” Dissecting his writing method, he says, “it was more interesting to tell you what happened with each of the guys and also me as a man in very different stages of my life” but reassures us that it still includes the humour of his first book. Whilst Men is much more serious, he admits that it’s his favourite out of the two; an insightful look into all things both great and toxic about men, but with his hilariously crude commentary intertwined throughout.

He discusses his experience of growing up as a mixed race, gay, “obviously flamboyant” kid, having to constantly battle homophobia and racism. It exhausted him, absorbing everything whilst not being able to change much around him. “I just don’t know how many battles I have in me. That just sounds like I’ve given up… which I have – buy the book!” He jokes, bringing the mood back up immediately.

It feels like a conversation between friends, as he maintains a relatable and honest persona, bringing up discussions he’s had with his therapist, anecdotes about him and his husband, and an experience of being hit by an orange on a night out. The conversation leads on to the idea of “footnotes in their memoir” and Raven’s experience of being ghosted. “The one thing you can do to someone who likes attention is to ignore them. It’s so powerful. That’s insanely powerful to just ignore me. Like right you’ve done it, congratulations, please text me back.” He jokes, laughing at himself and how he became obsessed with the guy who ghosted him. It had us all in laughter, especially as he played up to it, which is exactly how the entire evening went.

I could write about Raven Smith’s event for hours, but, for now, all I can say that listening to him speak was a pleasure, and I cannot wait to crack open his book.

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Louise Collins

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June 2022
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