Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again

Norah Vincent, Author . Viking $24.95 (290p) ISBN 978-0-670-03466-6

The disguise that former Los Angeles Times op-ed columnist Vincent employed to trick dozens of people into believing her a man was carefully thought out: a new, shorter haircut; a pair of rectangular eyeglasses; a fake five o'clock shadow; a prosthetic penis; some preppy clothes. It was more than she needed. "[A]s I became more confident in my disguise... the props I had used... became less and less important, until sometimes I didn't need them at all," Vincent writes. Gender marking, she found, is more about attitude than appearance. Vincent's account of the year and a half she spent posing as a man is peppered with such predictable observations. To readers of gender studies literature, none of them will be especially illuminating, but Vincent's descriptions of how she learned, and tested, such chestnuts firsthand make them awfully fun to read. As "Ned," Vincent joined an all-male bowling league, dated women, worked for a door-to-door sales force, spent three weeks in a monastery, hung out in strip clubs and, most dangerous of all, went on a Robert Bly–style men's retreat. She creates rich portraits of the men she met in these places and the ways they behaved—as a lesbian, she's particularly good at separating the issues of sexuality from those of gender. But the most fascinating part of the story lies within Vincent herself—and the way that censoring her emotions to pass as a man provoked a psychological breakdown. For fans of Nickel and Dimed –style immersion reporting, this book is a sure bet. (Jan. 23)

Reviewed on: 11/14/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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