Man Made: A Memoir of My Body

Ken Baker, Author Jeremy P. Tarcher $23.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-58542-083-4
Describing the locker-room banter of his college hockey team, Baker writes, ""They don't realize how lucky they are. If they like a girl, just about the only thing stopping them from being with her is the girl. I also have to contend with myself."" While locker-room epiphanies are ubiquitous in male gender studies, Baker's memoir about struggling with masculinity in contemporary culture is unique. Throughout his adolescence and early adult life, he suffered from a massive overabundance of prolactin--the hormone that allows females to produce milk. This imbalance, caused by a benign tumor in Baker's brain, engendered a host of physical problems, such as impotence, excess fat on his hips and breasts and sensitive nipples that would occasionally excrete a milky substance. While much of the book traces Baker's long medical quest for the cause of these unsettling symptoms, the heart of the book is a meditation on how society constructs maleness and what happens to men who do not fit the mold. Baker's account of his boyhood is well observed but ordinary, while his detailing of his adult romantic life is painfully adroit. Some of the best parts of the book show Baker's growing awareness of the role that homophobia plays in constituting ""appropriate"" social maleness: from seeing his father making fun of ""faggots"" in his youth to covering gay activist protests against Pat Robertson's homophobic religious views. A senior writer at US Weekly, Baker has a breezy journalistic style that may attract those outside the realm of gender studies. While his specific medical problem may be too singular to interest a mass readership, his contemplation of the social prisons of gender and sexuality is not. Agent, Jane Dystel. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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