Michael A. Messner

theAuthor.jpg

I grew up idealizing my grandfather’s service in World War I and my father’s in World War II. But as I came of age during the tail end of the American war in Vietnam, I considered myself lucky to have drawn a high draft lottery number—284—in a year when the number of draftees was dropping, but young men were still returning home in coffins. I never fought in a war, nor did I serve in the military. 

So how did I come to write a book about war veterans who become advocates for peace?  There are three sources to my interest in this topic. 

The first is my simultaneous fascination and abhorrence with men’s experiences with guns, the military and war.  I plumbed the emotional contours of my ambivalences with this topic in a 2011 memoir, King of the Wild Suburb:  A Memoir of Fathers, Sons and Guns.

A second source of interest in this topic comes from my decision, several years ago, to focus less of my research and writing on revealing the sources of ongoing injustice, inequalities and violence, and more on everyday individuals' and progressive organizations’ efforts to move the world toward equality, social justice and peace. 

The first of these efforts was Some Men:  Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women, a 2015 book co-authored with Max Greenberg and Tal PeretzGuys Like Me emerges from this same commitment to exploring and illuminating the lives of individuals committed to personal transformation and social change.

 The author with Santa Fe, NM Veterans for Peace at their weekly peace vigil

The author with Santa Fe, NM Veterans for Peace at their weekly peace vigil

 The author speaks to students at Arizona State University, along with members of the Phoenix chapter of Veterans For Peace.

The author speaks to students at Arizona State University, along with members of the Phoenix chapter of Veterans For Peace.

Third, this book is connected with the major themes that have animated my teaching and research, spanning four decades—inspired by feminism and other progressive social movements of the late 1960s, early 1970s and beyond—that focuses on gender relations, men and masculinities, gender and sport, violence and anti-violence. 

During most of that time I have worked as a professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California.  I invite readers who would like to know more about this larger body of work to explore my web site, michaelmessner.org.


Michael Messner is our new Studs Terkel. His five men speak with extraordinary eloquence about the psychic wounds they suffered in war, and the moral odysseys they undertook to break the silence that surrounds the human cost of war in the United States. Each man fought in a different war, but each tells a common story of exploitation by their own government and a descent into numbness, followed by redemption. These men form an intergenerational chain reflecting with honesty and courage on masculinity and war. Messner describes and analyzes their experiences with warmth and insight. Essential reading for those seeking to understand military veterans.
— Hugh Gusterson, author of Drone: Remote Control Warfare