Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I finished this book tonight and I cried. I cried because I had never before read such powerful, proud words on what it means to be gay.
Monette contracted the HIV virus and with it a clarity I have never seen before. He knew at that time that it would be the cause of his death and that combined with all the events of his life up until that point, it made all the pieces fit together in a way that staggers me.
Monette with his verse is able to still maintain the smarts from his earlier work, and yet now approaches it with a passion and a directness that few people will ever possess. His post HIV work is a revelation.
It's hard to discuss this book as it brings up so many issues. What I really feel is that Monette realized truly that every step he made up until this point brought him to this moment, and although some of those moments are difficult, he shares them all in this book. It seems like an addition problem, my life and HIV and losing my husband equals this man I am today. The only way I can accept it, the only way I can get through it, the only way I'm still here on earth is to accept.
Monette talks about finding out someone from his childhood had always thought he was gay and at 45 feels a flash of disappointment that he didn't act straight enough, a part of him wishing he could go back, do it again, try harder, be straighter. I think all gay men can relate to this. I wonder if it ends, if the damage done can ever be undone.
Monette taps in to the anger, calling the AIDS epidemic a holocaust, calling the straight white ruling class murderers. By refusing to act, by ignoring the disease, by being homophobic and making the disease a gay problem, these men directly cost millions of people their lives. There's a sense of that anger in this book but it doesn't override. I see it as more of a warning to our gay brothers and sisters that we must not let this happen again. We are valued, we are strong, we are good, and we must never let this power be taken from us.
I cried at the end of this book as learning this cost Monette his life. I am so greatful he was able to share this message before he left.
I found it difficult in the last 10 percent of the book as he kept sleeping with women. I suppose this is my own issue but it felt like a betrayal of the side, like he was cheating on the gays. Monette ties it up nicely at the end though saying that every moment of his life brought him to meet Roger, his husband, and so he wouldn't change any of it.
The book ends with the realization that yes he is dying and his partner has died and his friends have died, but they die as gay men, strong and proud. They have learned how to become a man.
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