Tuesday, March 25, 2014

eARC Review: Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story Paul Monette

Paul Monette (1945–1995) was an author, poet, and gay rights activist. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Yale University, he moved with his partner Roger Horwitz to Los Angeles in 1978 and became involved in the gay rights movement. Monette’s writing captures the sense of heartbreak and loss at the center of the AIDS crisis. His first novel, Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, was published in 1978, and he went on to write several more works of fiction, poetry, and memoir. Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, the tender account of his partner’s battle with the disease, earned him both PEN Center West and Lambda literary awards. In 1992, Monette won the National Book Award in Nonfiction for Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, an autobiography detailing his early life and his struggle with his sexuality. Written as a classic coming-of-age story, Becoming a Man became a seminal coming-out story. In 1995, Monette founded the Monette-Horwitz Trust, which honors individuals and organizations working to combat homophobia. Monette died in his home in West Hollywood in 1995 of complications from AIDS.

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story
by Paul Monette
Open Road Integrated Media
Pubication Date:   Mar 25 2014

My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
A child of the 1950s from a small New England town, "perfect Paul" earns straight A's and shines in social and literary pursuits, all the while keeping a secret -- from himself and the rest of the world. Struggling to be, or at least to imitate, a straight man, through Ivy League halls of privilege and bohemian travels abroad, loveless intimacy and unrequited passion, Paul Monette was haunted, and finally saved, by a dream of "the thing I'd never even seen: two men in love and laughing."
Searingly honest, witty, and humane, Becoming a Man is the definitive coming-out story in the classic coming-of-age genre.

There is something about reading memoirs that hits me at a very personal level. There is a different tone set to the writing, no matter what the topic may be. Becoming A Man: Half A Life Story is the memoir of one Paul Monette, a gay man living in a society that had no scruples to labelling him a liability to the human race. He is also the man responsible for novelizing such popular movies like 'Nosferatu the Vampyre' (1979), 'Scarface' (1983), 'Predator' (1987) and 'Midnight Run' (1988), which, I have to confess, I have stored safe on my library shelf. Especially Scarface, one of my favorite movies that starred two of the best of Hollywood.

Monette's life story in this memoir is loving, happy, bitter, angry. It tells the story of a young man who's life is dictated by society's needs and fallacies. It is the story of a man coming to terms with his own inner voice that screams out the need to just be who he really is.

There were a lot of things going on here that made me laugh recalling those decades past, and made me realize that the 1950's was not really the way I had imagined it. This is the story of how Monette's life was before he finally decided to unlock that proverbial closet and step out of it. For keeps. His struggles as a good Catholic boy, his stories of why he could not be who he was for he was not allowed to, these are very familiar situations, especially for me who have read too many MM genre books. But the voice of Monette was real, it was like he was talking to me from the deepest level and it hurt. It hurt a lot. I read things that I know I personally struggled with in terms of beliefs and the nonacceptance of what I now consider as normal. I know he died of AIDS related illness, I know he lived to see his works recognized. What I did not know was his rage on life in general and have wondered through the read what he would have thought when Marriage Equality was finally realized. What would he have written should he have been there listening to the Supreme Court decision?

Becoming A Man: Half A Life Story is a beautiful but very painful read and yet it is not a book to leave unfinished. It serves as a lesson to me and its readers that although this is the memoir of the past, what the LGBTQ community suffers, both physically and psychically, are still just as intolerably faced today.

Note: eARC courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

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