*Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction
*Shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award
*Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize
One of The Times UK’s Best Memoirs of 2018, BuzzFeed’s Best Nonfiction of 2018, Autostraddle’s Best LGBT Books of 2018, and 52 Insight’s Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2018
A “no-holds-barred examination of masculinity” (BuzzFeed) and violence from award-winning author Thomas Page McBee.
In this “refreshing and radical” (The Guardian) narrative, Thomas McBee, a trans man, sets out to uncover what makes a man—and what being a “good” man even means—through his experience training for and fighting in a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden. A self-described “amateur” at masculinity, McBee embarks on a wide-ranging exploration of gender in society, examining sexism, toxic masculinity, and privilege. As he questions the limitations of gender roles and the roots of masculine aggression, he finds intimacy, hope, and even love in the experience of boxing and in his role as a man in the world. Despite personal history and cultural expectations, “Amateur is a reminder that the individual can still come forward and fight” (The A.V. Club).
“Sharp and precise, open and honest,” (Women’s Review of Books), McBee’s writing asks questions “relevant to all people, trans or not” (New York Newsday). Through interviews with experts in neuroscience, sociology, and critical race theory, he constructs a deft and thoughtful examination of the role of men in contemporary society. Amateur is a graceful and uncompromising look at gender by a fearless, fiercely honest writer.
In November 2015, McBee (Man Alive) became the first transgender man to fight a boxing match in Madison Square Garden, and this powerful book chronicles his training and his attempts at understanding why violence is accepted as an aspect of American masculinity. The book unfolds as a series of connected essays that explore masculinity in America, each spun from McBee's experience training at boxing gyms around Manhattan in the five months leading up to the match. There are glimpses into the early stages of his transition, and a motif about being afraid of men all his life including as a man, a fear he puts to rest by learning to box. McBee also writes about his current life as a man ("I was still adjusting to... the ease with which my ideas were often executed, the ways my expertise was assumed before I'd proven it") and his own definition of manhood that allows men to be vulnerable, tender, and unafraid of failure, help, shame, or pain. McBee's lyrical, achingly honest exploration of loss and maturation offers a hopeful antidote to more toxic forms of masculinity.