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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  820 ratings  ·  102 reviews
In Man Alive, McBee asks, “What does it really mean to be a man?” by focusing on two of the most impactful men in his life – the father who abused him as a child, and a mugger who threatened his life and then released him in an odd moment of mercy. Standing at the brink of the life-changing decision to transition from female to male, McBee seeks to understand these fallen ...more
Paperback, 172 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by City Lights Publishers (first published August 18th 2014)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is so, so good.

If I had to say what it's about, I'd say that it's about childhood sexual abuse, a gunpoint mugging as an adult, and how these two experiences informed McBee's understanding of what it means to become a man. That would be a simplification, of course, but I know that sometimes when you read these reviews you want to get some idea of what the book deals with.

I had lots of feelings as I read Man Alive, but the main one was awe at the author's bravery
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
A well-written book and an easy read, but I think I was looking for more out of it. It does a good job of describing McBee's personal journey to becoming a man, and the punchline (not really a spoiler) is that you have to be your own man. But I was hoping that someone who has to make the transition to manhood as an adult and from an entirely different perspective might have some insights into what it really means to be a man in our society: what the expectations are, how we respond to them, how ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m rarely moved by anything, so it’s always an indication of great writing when I am. Thomas writes of his incredibly honest journey trying to to reconcile his past with who he is and who he wants to be. Not a light read by any means.
Moray Teale
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thomas Page McBee’s account of his decision to move from passing to full female-to-male transition is testament to how a personal story can be told simply but with huge power and heart. It isn’t an easy story to read, I can’t imagine how it was to live, as McBee explains his childhood abuse at the hands of his father and his struggle to come to terms with the potential relationship between this abuse and the development of his gender identity. Because at the heart of this story is the question, ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very thoughtful and beautifully written memoir. McBee writes about his transition to male, while exploring the ongoing effect on him of two big formative experiences: being molested by his father (or presumed-at-the-time father) as a child, and being mugged with his partner as an adult. These are obviously both very bad things, and both affected how he looked at himself and his gender identity. But the way he writes about them, about the people around him (and himself), and about cause and eff ...more
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read a number of books and stories by trans women of late and it's great to finally read something more from the trans male side of the coin (shout out to Dylan Edwards and his wonderful 2012 book of comics from Northwest Press called Transposes). McBee is a tremendously talented writer (hard to believe he's only in his early 30's) and this memoir is a haunting and moving piece of work. Highly recommended; when I finished it I was near tears.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
If you've been in my vicinity for this past week or so, you've heard me go on and on about this book. Gripping, poignant, heartbreaking and so so so well-written and perfect. This guy is gonna be huge.
Rambling Reader
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Unbelievable writing. Impressive stuff. Can't wait to read more by Thomas Page McBee.

Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lbgtq
I quite enjoyed this book, there were times where I didn’t overly like jumping from age to age in Thomas’ story but in the end it does make sense for the flow of the book. Having the more crucial chapters in the book stood out to me quite a bit while the ones that played a part were shorter, it made the reading flow nice and simple. This is one of the first autobiographies that I have ever read and I think of it as a bold choice for a first one considering the topics discussed in the novel. I ap ...more
Bryan Cebulski
It took me about half the book to really get into, but fantastic once I settled into the style. There's something about the approach and the language that was off-putting at first--the organizing of one's life through these specific lenses and poetic syntax--but once I accepted and embraced how this is McBee's way of processing and communicating something deeply personal and important, I was able to better appreciate the book.

Man Alive is spare and powerful, sort of prose poetry memo
I reread this for class (I'm teaching it alongside Kai Cheng Thom's Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars in my Trans Studies class) -- it's an intense read, addressing McBee's confrontation with his history of childhood trauma as a kind of final stage that he needed to get through before entering into masculinity and new selfhood. On second read, found some of the themes repetitive and a little too tidily resolved -- though still appreciate so much, especially the questions that are asked--about (g ...more
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review was originally published in the Media:

When I first met Thomas Page McBee in 2012, he was working at the now-defunct alt-weekly The Boston Phoenix. McBee was working to make queerness more visible at the publication – not just white, upper middle class gays concerned first and foremost with marriage, but lesser told stories of people who are less often heard. Not because the stories aren’t there, but because they are largely ignored.

McBee was the first person I ever heard g
Will McGrath
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best books I've read this year - the memoir of a trans man coming to terms with violence and identity. Novelistic in its layered themes, with the pacing of a thriller. A work of radical empathy.

I feel lucky to have read this book.
Mel King
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An absolute stunner of a book and an instant favorite.
Kristin Boldon
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, mfa, 2019, own
A great memoir that deals delicately with heavy subjects like abuse, violence, sex change, and DNA surprises. Beautiful prose, and so much insight and compassion.
Michael Clark
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, lgbtq
Review to come.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Breathtakingly beautiful.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautifully, poetically, simply written. One of my top reads of the year. Centers on pathways and connectedness of trauma; gender identity; forgiveness; relationship dynamism.
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
God DAMN, is this a good book. I'd even venture to say it's a great book. The subject (parts of this man's life- it's memoir-ish, McBee's authors note says "This is a work of nonfiction, but it relies on memory and, as such, its attendant illusions, specters, and plays of light. It is the truth as I've lived it. Many names have been changed") is interesting in itself, but the prose is was makes it great. While reading, I kept having to remind myself that it was nonfiction, I kept feeling it was ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
...I fucking devoured this book, and it's going to take me a few days to process (I might also read it again immediately).
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, ebooks
"Man Alive: A True Story of Violence" author/columnist Thomas McBee, recalled his life from childhood on, revealing his impassioned story in short chapters from past to present. He discussed how child abuse, parental betrayal, a violent street mugging impacted his life, and importantly how he chose not to be defined by trauma. McBee wrote with tremendous integrity and compassion of his views on modern masculinity, his relationships with family members, others, also his partner, Parker.
Jan 09, 2015 added it
This was great. Incredibly evocative and moving. Some of my favorite lines:

"I kept my head down, a flush inexplicably spreading up my neck, the frightening, lovely feeling of being seen, the discomforting sense of its fragility, the way I was not myself, not at all."

"I watched her move liquidly back to the chili; her body a whole that functioned together, not like my collection of jangly parts."

"It seemed possible to me, in the dry heat of that courtroom, that
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What struck me most about this book was how remarkably brave and honest the author is. I'm grateful Thomas allowed us to see this journey from his perspective, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Jonathan Tennis
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about what makes a man.

Some really good writing in here. Highest praise I can give an author is that I would read something else by them (I say this because we have so little time to read all the great books)…I would read more by McBee.

“Every body has a different threshold, but we all know to run eventually; most people don’t realize that. We never forget how to escape.” – p. 51

“I was right to come here. If you want a sense of the real architecture of a person, go to the pla
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt-related
A trans man writing about his transition (among other things), McBee is in a unique position to look at how gender forms us. However this is not a dry sociological study but a memoir that meditates on masculinity and family. It's great to see a story of this kind with a hopeful ending, that does not feel exploitative or sensationalist.
The only objection I had was that the writing style felt like an affectation. It is very thoughtfully written, but in most chapters small events or moments are as
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thomas Page McBee's memoir is powerful and raw. He tells his stories in short chapters on a non-linear timeline which lended well to the book's mix of remembering and reflection. The book focuses around McBee's experiences of childhood sexual assault and a violent mugging. Telling these stories are most of the first chapters which proved to be a bit of a barrier for me--I had a hard time reading detailed accounts of the mugging before bed. This isn't to say that these initial chapters aren't wel ...more
Larkin Tackett
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is McBee' first book (although I read it second) about violence, masculinity, and his experience as a transgendered man. His simple writing and compelling person stories and reflections made me fly through the book in only a few hours. Other than an episode of Queer Eye and a couple conversations, his book are helping me better understand the experience of someone who transitions and what it can teach us about becoming a man. As someone who was born a woman, McBee has a unique perspective a ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-buy, star
"being a man" presents a multitude of perspectives and forces bearing down on those that would define themselves so.

It has a familial basis, a military basis, a religious basis, a social basis, a personal basis and on... that carries responsibilities and embodies celebrations and transitions.

For cis, trans, gay, straight, bi.and asexual men navigating expectations and personal interpretations is a life's journey, presenting risks and insecurities in assimilation.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq
A deeply personal memoir describing one man's journey to discover what it means to be a man.

Thomas Page McBee is a trans man who has written an honest, emotional, and oftentimes necessarily uncomfortable account. Through memories of child abuse and adult violence, Thomas talks with empathy and compassion about how he faced the journey for the truth of who he was and where he fitted into his family and the world.

This memoir is beautifully written, with even the most harrowing events
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was fantastic. It was raw and real and I can tell Thomas didn't hold back on sharing any of his true feelings. He didn't sugarcoat anything. He was honest and allowed the reader to feel his fears, his joys, his confusion, his pain, his healing, all right along side him.

I always wondered, if I were to write a memoir would I be unable to be so honest due to fear that family might read what I never wanted them to know? I wonder if Thomas worried about this. If he did, I commend him for a
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Thomas Page McBee’s Lambda award-winning memoir, Man Alive, was named a best book of 2014 by NPR Books, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, and Publisher's Weekly. His “refreshing [and] radical” (The Guardian) new book, Amateur, a reported memoir about learning how to box in order to understand masculinity’s tie to violence, was published in August to wide acclaim.
Thomas was the first transgender man to box in Mad
“I learned the choruses quick enough to sing along, even though I didn’t particularly like it, just to see what kind of person I’d be if I were someone else altogether.” 1 likes
“I was sure that he and Roy were no different from me; not because we were monsters but because we all have the chance to be more than the worst that’s done to us. If” 1 likes
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