cover image Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man

Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man

Thomas Page McBee. City Lights, $15.95 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-0-87286-624-9

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 cliché, 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.)