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Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man (City Lights/Sister Spit)by Thomas Page McBee
Synopses & Reviews
What does it really mean to be a man?
In Man Alive, Thomas Page McBee attempts to answer that question by focusing on two of the men who most impacted his life — one, his otherwise ordinary father who abused him as a child, and the other, a mugger who almost killed him. Standing at the brink of the life-changing decision to transition from female to male, McBee seeks to understand these examples of flawed manhood and tells us how a brush with violence sent him on the quest to untangle a sinister past, and freed him to become the man he was meant to be.
Man Alive engages an extraordinary personal story to tell a universal one — how we all struggle to create ourselves, and how this struggle often requires risks. Far from a transgender transition tell-all, Man Alive grapples with the larger questions of legacy and forgiveness, love and violence, agency and invisibility.
"McBee, a columnist for the Rumpus, begins this remarkable memoir by juxtaposing two painful events in his life — a mugging in Oakland, and his childhood revelation to his mother of his father's abuse. These recollections propel the author on a quest of discovery and reconciliation, not just of his personal history and the men who injured him, but on the nature of masculinity, both cultural and biological, as he approaches his own female-to-male gender transition. In taut, careful prose that conveys both brutal awareness and unceasing wonder, McBee captures the tension of his transition, 'the warble between the shape in my mind and the one in the mirror,' 'the assault of language' in simple use of pronouns, the fraught everyday choices of which swimsuit to wear, which public restroom to use. In the end, McBee's answer to the initial question of 'what makes a man?' is more generous, more inspiring, and more creative than the usual gender binaries allow. Full of bravery and clear, far-sighted compassion and devoid of sentiment, victimization, and clichÃ©, McBee's meditations bring him a hard-won sense of self — one that is bound to inspire any reader who has struggled with internal dissonance. Agent: Chris Tomasino, Tomasino Agency. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Thomas Page McBee's Man Alive hurtled through my life. I read it in a matter of hours. It's a confession, it's a poem, it's a time warp, it's a brilliant work of art. I bow down to McBee — his humility, his sense of humor, his insightfulness, his structural deftness, his ability to put into words what is often said but rarely, with such visceral clarity and beauty, communicated." Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers and The Uses of Enchantment
"Man Alive is a sweet, tender hurt of a memoir...about forgiveness and self-discovery, but mostly it's about love, so much love. McBee takes us in his capable hands and shows us what it takes to become a man who is gloriously, gloriously alive." Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State
"Thomas Page McBee's story of how he came to claim both his past and his future is by turns despairing and hopeful, exceptional and relatable. To read it is to witness the birth of a fuller, truer self. I loved this book." Ann Friedman, columnist, New York Magazine
"'Whoever's child I am, my body belongs to me,' McBee writes, and his book is an elegant, generous transcription of the journey toward this incandescent, non-aggrandized, life-sustaining form of self-possession — the kind that emanates from dispossession, rather than running from it." Maggie Nelson, author of Bluets and The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
"Exquisitely written and bristling with emotion, this important book reminds us of how much vulnerability and violence inheres to any identity. A real achievement of form and narrative.” Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure
McBee asks, What does it really mean to be a man?” as he makes the life-changing decision to transition from female to male. He focuses on two men in his life — the father who abused him and a mugger who threatened his life and then let him go free. Haunting, inspiring, poetic, written with the intensity of a thriller.
About the Author
Thomas Page McBee is a "masculinity expert" for VICE and writes the column "Self-Made Man" for the Rumpus. His essays and reportage have appeared in the New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, Salon, and Buzzfeed, where he is a regular contributor on gender issues. An early version of Man Alive won the Mary Tanenbaum nonfiction award from the San Francisco Foundation and was a finalist for the 2012 Bakeless literary prize administered by Graywolf and Breadloaf. Thomas has given lectures about masculinity and media narratives at colleges across the country, and spent five years as the writer-in-residence at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco. He is the managing editor of the crowdsourced news and analysis site PolicyMic, and lives in Brooklyn.
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