Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man (City Lights/Sister Spit)
Thomas Page McBee
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&mash;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.
Praise for Man Alive:
"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
"Well aware that memory and identity rarely follow a linear path, Thomas Page McBee attempts to answer the question, 'What does it really mean to be a man?' Weaving past and present to do so, the book's journey connects violence, masculinity and forgiveness. McBee has an intelligent heart, and it beats in every sentence of this gorgeous book."––Saeed Jones, author of Prelude to Bruise
"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
About the Author:
Thomas Page McBee was the "masculinity expert" for VICE and writes the columns "Self-Made Man" for The Rumpus and "The American Man" for Pacific Standard. His essays and reportage have appeared in the the New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, Salon, and BuzzFeed, where he was a regular contributor on gender issues. He lives in New York City where he works as the editor of special projects at Quartz, and is currently at work on a book about modern American masculinity.
one more thing right now.” She took long pull of beer. “So we can do this, but I can’t make it better for you if it doesn’t go how you hoped.” “I can take care of myself, Parker.” “We can both take care of ourselves,” she agreed. “Trust me,” I said. I looked at the pictures of boxers on the pub wall behind her, vintage black-and-whites, mustaches waxed, arms posed. I thought of Mike, of the way I’d finally have pecs, of the importance of the core. “Someday I’ll look like this guy,” I said,
that Michael Jackson song, growing up. Used to forget my girl-hips, used to sing it to my best imagination of myself. What makes a man? The need to know led me to my father’s hometown in hot-damp South Carolina. The story starts there because that’s where I went when I could no longer afford to leave the question alone, to let it rear up every few years, when I’d had too much to drink and it was just me and my reflection and my hungry ghosts. And so I steered my rental through the swampy South
asked. She looked at me, surprised, and I saw every Parker then: the girl I got drunk with in college, the baby-faced woman whose apartment I moved into in Oakland, the girlfriend so scared driving me to top surgery in San Francisco that she had to pull over to retch on the side of the road, the partner in the purple dress pouring champagne in Mendocino, the person with the big eyes and the full heart that transcended every incarnation, just like me. “What do you mean?” She swatted at her legs
looked for Parker but all I saw was her crouching shadow. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t even think, except to note, dully, that I was immobilized, a bystander to my own story. 6 • Pittsburgh 1990 • 10 years old “Crocodile tears,” Mom said the day after Dad apologized. I didn’t know what that meant, but it made me picture him slithering toward me, so I shut my eyes. “I could just cut his brakes,” she said, nodding toward his sedan in the airless garage. We were in the van beside it,
mustache. A recorder sat like an insect between us on the table in front of me. I didn’t like the way his hair crowned his head, didn’t like his straight teeth or his scruff. “Your mom wanted you to tell us what happened—” he seemed unsure of how to go on, and I didn’t like that, either. The worst thing in the world was a nervous adult. “That’s right,” Mom said, providing no further clues. I kept my eyes down as he launched into questions, my cheeks reddening with each one. I knew the recorder