A dryly witty journey from female to male, with musings on what it means to be a man.
T Cooper, the author of several successful novels (including The Beaufort Diaries and Lipshitz 6), is fascinated by masculinity, perhaps in part because he’s had to work a little harder than the average man to get there: he was born female. Yet even as he explores the essence of masculinity and his own experiences with gender in Real Man Adventures, he expresses some reluctance to delve into the personal.
There is definitely some autobiographical content, but Cooper takes his own privacy seriously, as well as that of his wife and daughters, and is less interested in hashing out the details of his own life than he is in exploring the meaning and role of masculinity in society and the difficulties facing transgender men and women. Real Man Adventures sidesteps the concept of a straightforward memoir, instead compiling a whimsical collection of miscellanea: letters, interviews, lists and original art all help Cooper and his readers explore together what makes a man. This structure works perfectly, and feels like a conversation with Cooper himself.
Deeply honest, even while guarding a few precious items of privacy, Real Man Adventures is a brave book. Cooper does a great service not only to transgender people whose paths might be made a little clearer, but also to their loved ones, neighbors and acquaintances, who should find it a little easier to navigate relationships and communications thanks to this frank discussion. And the irreverent, wry humor throughout keeps Cooper’s brash personality at center stage, where it belongs.
This review originally ran as a *starred review* in the Nov. 27, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!