From Simon & Schuster I received a copy of “American Nerd: The Story of My People” by Benjamin Nugent, and I will treasure it forever.
In my following review, I’ll try to not give too much of the book away because it was very enjoyable to read…
The first chapter establishes two types of nerds:
those who are by choice, behaviour, and/or interests…
and others who are forced into the classification by social labeling and catagorizing.
After describing some basics of nerdiness, Nugent examines various types of nerds:
“…the nerd receives his calling from God or nature…the nerd is incapable of selling out.”
Those who appreciate medieval culture…
Fake nerds (and why they would choose to pretend to be)…
Asperger’s syndrome may cause behaviour that is deemed nerdiness…
[I have never been diagnosed for this, but from all I’ve read of it, it would explain a lot of my life. Some of my kids have been diagnosed with (some) autism…]
(An Author’s Note states that some names may have been changed to protect privacy.)
There’s a chapter (page 111) about a guy Nugent knew in high school, Darren, that proves that some choose nerdum to escape uncomfortableness in their life. (I can relate to Darren.)
An interesting passage to me is found on page 20, in the second paragraph, where Nugent addresses our/nerds preferences for people to “say what you mean, mean what you say”. There are times in my life where I’ve been considered to be too literal: I hate the phrase, “wait a second”.
Rather than participate in social gaming, and needing to decipher signals that are being sent, we/nerds prefer obvious communication.
I remember the many “pick-up lines” I’ve never had…the closest I’ve ever been able to come to flirting is: “I’m going to bed…you are welcome to join me.”
As stated on page 37, nerds prefer to focus on expertise and can prefer to be (in general) non-confrontational to social engagement.
When we do attempt to engage, where most flirt to show interest (as described on page 106): “…debate is something nerds to in order to meet other nerds they can hit on…”
Historical figures who were probable nerds are proposed, and Nugent used some fictional characters to explain the evolution of “manliness” and its descriptive components.
When he compared “nerds” to “jocks” and referenced Skolnick and Urkel, I waited for Doc Savage (whom I consider to be a nerd and jock) to be mentioned. I was dissappointed…
He explains how the term “sissy” evolved, which should have been obvious, but I never thought about it.
While expounding on nerdy characterizations on television he mentions the television show “Freaks and Geeks”, which I have never seen. I waited for a mention of “Square Pegs”, which I have seen and thought would be a similar comparison to his descriptions, but it was not. It left me wondering if he was aware of the show, or felt it did not apply…
(This book was written before The Big Bang Theory was on CBS.)
His interpretation of ethnicities pleasantly surprised me. I had never taken into consideration that some traits are due to culture. There is a probable reason those of Jewish decent seemed to read at an early age (page 80), and why nerd culture appreciates Japanese techno-art (page 82).
“American Nerd: The Story of My People” is available as an ebook.
I strongly suggest you buy the book:
Add it to your collection because it’s a good read.
If you are a nerd, and/or know or love a nerd.
Maybe you will learn something about yourself and your peers…maybe others will learn about you…maybe there will be more understanding.
Buy the book, highlight the parts you feel appropriate, and (assuming the recipient can read) give the book to someone who doesn’t understand you, and you wish they did…or at least would try to understand you.
I miss my slide rule…