Amateur (Hardcover)

A True Story About What Makes a Man

By Thomas Page McBee

Scribner, 9781501168741, 224pp.

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

List Price: 24.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From an award-winning writer whose work bristles with “hard-won strength, insight, agility, and love” (Maggie Nelson), an exquisite and troubling narrative of masculinity, violence, and society.

In this groundbreaking new book, the author, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence. Through his experience boxing—learning to get hit, and to hit back; wrestling with the camaraderie of the gym; confronting the betrayals and strength of his own body—McBee examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, and the limitations of conventional masculinity. A wide-ranging exploration of gender in our society, Amateur is ultimately a story of hope, as McBee traces a new way forward, a new kind of masculinity, inside the ring and outside of it.

In this graceful, stunning, and uncompromising exploration of living, fighting, and healing, we gain insight into the stereotypes and shifting realities of masculinity today through the eyes of a new man.

Praise For Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man

“Sharp and precise, open and honest … It’s hard to overstate how important and profound it feels to read a personal account of a man actively examining his own masculinity and privilege in such an honest way.”
Women’s Review of Books

“[McBee’s] writing is marvelous, pinning ideas that could so easily be abstract to the visceral, physical poetry of boxing…McBee displays tenacity on the page and in the gym, sizing up formidable concepts and engaging them with savvy and sensitivity. Amateur is more than a boxing story, just as it's more than a trans narrative. It's a highly recommended case study in manhood.”
Shelf Awareness

“This powerful book chronicles McBee’s training and his attempts at understanding why violence is accepted as an aspect of American masculinity…McBee’s lyrical, achingly honest exploration of loss and maturation offers a hopeful antidote to more toxic forms of masculinity.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Riveting. [McBee] is a compelling narrator. A heartfelt glimpse of a trans person’s life, with a very dramatic boxing match bringing into focus the gender binary…Readers will be able to relate and gain new perspectives.”
Library Journal

“This timely memoir explores male-female power dynamics in an uplifting story of someone who becomes a new man in ways even he couldn’t anticipate.”

“In this lyrical, courageous book, the author eloquently probes his inner life as he searches for the meaning of gender identity in a world limited by binary thinking. Provocative and illuminating—a winning follow-up to McBee’s acclaimed debut.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Until I read this book, I didn't realize how tired I was of reading about masculinity as cold, hard, and fixed. Amateur is a warm hug. It’s also an invitation to everyone who's ever struggled to accept failure, searched for a sense of belonging, or said ‘Ugh, men’ in an exasperated tone to think harder and be kinder. I want the world to read it.”
Ann Friedman, New York Magazine columnist and cohost of Call Your Girlfriend

 “Amateur is a brutally honest look at the problems with masculinity, laced through with hope, and joy, and possibility. Thomas McBee confronts fears and realities with grace, toughness, and poetry. A beautiful book.”
—Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave and How to Grow Up

"Thomas Page McBee's Amateur takes a classic, well-worn subject—a man whose fight with other men is ultimately a confrontation with the self—and completely revitalizes, renews, and enriches it. McBee grapples with enormous issues such as masculinity, identity, transformation, and loss with great depth and intelligence, and in doing so, explores so many of the tough questions we should all be asking ourselves. Though slim and sharply concise, Amateur enlarges the world by opening up greater, more hopeful realms of possibility. I am a better man for having read this book."
—Isaac Fitzgerald, founding editor of Buzzfeed Books, cohost of #AMtoDM and coauthor of Pen & Ink and Knives & Ink

“Thomas Page McBee is a fighter—and not only in a ring in Madison Square Garden. Amateur shows us a warrior of the human spirit, courageously investigating masculinity itself. His prose—both fierce and delicate—reveals a struggle to become a better man, and to create a better self. Amateur is urgent, generous, and fearless.” 
—Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of Long Black Veil and She’s Not There

"With Thomas as your gloved guide, you'll peer into locker rooms, through ropes, and at douchebags challenging strangers to sidewalk beat downs. Watch Thomas spar with masculinity as he takes on his, yours, and America’s manhood. While tracing his journey from uninitiated fighter to Madison Square boxer, McBee explores why men so frequently confuse violence with power and why being a man ought to rely on a willingness to spar, first and foremost, with one’s own shadow."
—Myriam Gurba, author of Mean

"A blazingly wise and beautiful book."
—A.L. Kennedy, author of All the Rage and Serious Sweet

"Amateur provocatively describes the ways in which an increasingly fragile patriarchal culture needs to keep men in their place. A quest for self-liberation, this loving and deeply intelligent exploration of contemporary masculinities is essential reading."
—Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home and Hot Milk