About the Book
Winner of the 2021 Rising Writer Prize, selected by Matthew Dickman
In this stunning debut, John Belk uses the spectacle of wrestling to stare deeply into American culture and masculinity, parsing the intersecting threads of patriarchy and gender, and unpacking identity formation and performance. As Belk pries into toxic masculinities, he leaves space also for tenderness, queerness, and resistance to normative structures, opening the potential for love and admiration. Populated by classic and contemporary wrestlers like André the Giant, Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, Bruno Sammartino, Marcus “Buff” Bagwell, and more, this book is ultimately about the constant deconstruction and reconstruction of our identities that smudge fiction and reality. Like wrestlers in their operatic and winding storylines, we learn how to project and inhabit identities while growing into and fighting against the scripts we write for ourselves and those that are imposed on us. In The Gardens of Our Childhoods, the distance between spectacle and reality blurs.