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Every Boy Should Have a Man


Echoing Jonathan Swift, Preston L. Allen breaks new ground with a novel that is part allegory, part fantasy.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

Nominated for the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Fiction!

A Chicago Tribune Noteworthy Fiction Pick for 2013

“Allen’s concise book’s power lies within its understated irony, never more heavy-handed than a preacher’s admonition that ‘a world without mans is a world without us all.’ The plain narrative and relationship between boy and female man, rounded out with humor and occasional (sometimes literal) bite, promises to be a sleeper favorite among speculative audiences.”
Publishers Weekly

“Allen…throws caution to the wind with his bizarre but exquisitely composed fable that uses transhumanism as the prism to reflect on the nature of humanity…It’s also intellectually curious and rather cutting in many of its conceptual and cultural assessments. It’s a world where man is not only pet, but also meat, where religion, wars and empires are just as backward as they are in our own world, and where worlds collide with a temperamental angst that is as uncomfortable as it is alluring. Much like Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes, this novel is a sardonic parable on the nature and destiny of the species. A nimble fable whose bold narrative experiment is elevated by its near-biblical language and affectionate embrace of our inherent flaws.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Imaginative, versatile, and daring Allen (Jesus Boy, 2010) raids the realms of myth and fairy tales in this topsy-turvy speculative fable . . . With canny improvisations on ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ and Alice in Wonderland, Allen sharpens our perceptions of class divides, racism, enslavement, and abrupt and devastating climate change to create a delectably adventurous, wily, funny, and wise cautionary parable.”

“An imaginative and honest epic, weaving together biblical stories, fantasy, poetry, and fairy tales with a touch of realism . . . Allen asks us to question the assumptions, -isms, and contradictions of the modern world . . . Recalling the humanitarian concerns of Octavia Butler’s Fledgling and the poetry of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, this book will appeal to readers of literary fiction and fantasy.”
Library Journal

“In Every Boy Should Have a Man, Allen takes genre bending into unexplored territory. He has crafted a highly imaginative, unsettling work of social satire that . . . utilizes a speculative fable as a way to muse on race, slavery, civil rights and even climate change. . . Every Boy Should Have a Man is James Baldwin meets Aldous Huxley, a twisted contortion of a weird fairy tale future gone wrong, all told from high atop the mountain in a sort of New Testament prose. As the mixologist of this mad and unpredictable genre tableau, Allen has navigated into wholly uncharted territory. He comments on everything from slave ownership to pet ownership to the way we treat our planet and ourselves. His novel is ambitious yet understated, cautionary while rarely politically preachy. Every Boy Should Have a Man is that rare novel that is derived from such a disparate scope of literary influences that it waxes entirely original.”
Chicago Tribune

Every Boy Should Have a Man presents an eye-opening and beautifully rendered post-apocalyptic parable.”
Colorado Springs Independent

“Grade: A
Where humans have dogs, oafs have mans. But in Allen’s provocative parable, mans are far cleverer than dogs . . . Like all parables, there’s a message here. We need to pay attention to our environment and to those Bangladeshi clothesmakers who do work for us.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Every Boy Should Have a Man (Akashic, 2013) is the most interesting book I’ve read this year. Since it’s still only May, let me rephrase that: it’s the most interesting book I’ve read in a long, long time.”
Writing with Celia

“The story’s blend of influences and themes make the book as a whole fascinating and thought-provoking.”

“There’s no doubt this is an original story and one you should read.”
Book Sp(l)ot Reviews

“From this point forward, readers consulting any reference work addressing the concept of tour de force will find there a citation of Preston L. Allen’s Every Boy Should Have a Man. It is one thing to devise a fable dealing so adroitly with such concepts as racism, war, religion, and the very nature of civilization itself, but Preston’s true triumph is the infusion of each page and every astonishing episode with palpable emotional resonance. Bravo.
Les Standiford, author of Desperate Sons

Every Boy Should Have a Man is a wild animal, a melancholy human, a hybrid with fangs and tears, a book that cannot be classified and should never be classified—it is a book that I read until late into the night, and then talked about with my daughters, my dog, my friends, and myself. I won’t ever look at the daughters, the dog, or the world, in quite the same way.”
—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here

“In this new novel, Preston L. Allen writes with an elegance and honesty that makes his observations on ‘humanity’—our common flaws, our insistent dishonesty, our daily failings—a psalm, a love song to imperfection, and yet holds onto a firm and astute insight. Beautiful, elegiac, and optimistic.”
Chris Abani, author of Graceland

“Preston L. Allen has written a poignant book about human suffering, a fantasy tale about what could happen when some people have more power over others, and how a dangerous combination of violence and a sense of superiority can destroy all that we have worked hard for and gained in our years on this planet. But it’s also a tale about love and hope, adventure and redemption.”
NY Spender

Critical praise for Jesus Boy and All or Nothing by Preston L. Allen:

“Generations of illicit sex run through this clever and wide-ranging book [about religious addiction] in which the flesh always triumphs . . . Surely no one does church sexy like Allen . . . Allen’s writing by turns is solemn and funny . . . It would be easy for Jesus Boy to become fluffy satire but Allen keeps his characters real.”
New York Times Book Review, on Jesus Boy

“Heartfelt and occasionally hilarious, Jesus Boy is a tender masterpiece.”
Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and The Given Day, on Jesus Boy

“As a cartographer of autodegradation, Allen takes his place on a continuum that begins, perhaps, with Dostoyevsky’s Gambler, courses through Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, William S. Burroughs’s Junky, the collected works of Charles Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr. . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu—the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand.”
New York Times Book Review, on All or Nothing


A riveting, poignant satire of societal ills, with an added dose of fantasy, Every Boy Should Have a Man takes place in a post-human world where creatures called oafs keep humanlike “mans” as beloved pets. One day, a poor boy oaf brings home a man whom he hides under his bed in the hopes his parents won’t find out. When the man is discovered, the boy admits it is not his—but the boy is no delinquent. Despite the accusations being hurled at him, he’s telling the truth when he says he found the man aimlessly wandering in the bramble. Nevertheless, he must return the man to his rightful owner. But when the heartbroken boy comes home from school one afternoon, he finds wrapped up in red ribbon a female man with a note around her neck: Every boy should have a man. You’re a fine son. Love, Dad.

Thus begins Every Boy Should Have a Man, Preston L. Allen’s picaresque journey into uncharted territory in earth, sky, and firmament. With echoes of Margaret Atwood and Jack and the Beanstalk, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Octavia Butler’s Kindred, it traces the story of the boy and his three “mans,” Brown Skin who is not his, the tragic Red Sleeves who has no voice, and her quick-witted daughter Red Locks whose epic journey takes her from the backbreaking drudgery of the mines to the perils of the battlefield to the savagery of cannibalism.

Oafs and mans each gain insight and understanding into one another’s worlds, and the worlds that touch theirs—ultimately showing that oafs and mans alike share a common “humanity.” Filled with surprising twists and turns, the novel is in part a morality tale that takes on many of today’s issues including poverty, the environment, sexism, racism, war, and religion, all in lighthearted King James prose.

Click here to read an essay and view a playlist created by Preston L. Allen at Largehearted Boy.

Click here to read an Johnny Temple’s interview with Preston L. Allen at The Rumpus.

Click here to read Preston L. Allen’s self-interview at The Nervous Breakdown.

Read an excerpt of Every Boy Should Have a Man at The Nervous Breakdown.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Published: 5/7/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751578
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751721
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617751622


PRESTON L. ALLEN is the author of eight works of fiction, including Every Boy Should Have a Man, Jesus Boy, All or Nothing, and the award-winning collection Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Brown Sugar, Miami Noir, and Las Vegas Noir. The creator and host of Accents: A Poetry Jam, Preston L. Allen is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Miami Dade College. He was born in Honduras and lives in South Florida. I Disappeared Them is his latest novel.

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