Becoming a Man

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In many ways Monette’s autobiography is as much a gay morality tale—an illustration of the horrors and self-debasements of the closeted life and the need to abandon them for the freely integrated existence that coming out makes possible—as it is narrative of his particular life story. As he recounts his journey from darkness to light, from furtive acts of self-loathing to public acts of self-assertion, he regularly interrupts the chronology in the voice of the angry and passionate forty-seven-year old HIV-positive gay man that he is, urging young gays and lesbians to renounce the stultifying exile of their self-denial and embrace the liberating truth of their sexual identities. It is clear he desires to leave the next generation of his “tribe” a map of his quest for love, affirmation, and justice which will make their own journey less dire.

Monette traces this growth toward self-discovery from his solitary childhood in a puritanical working-class Boston suburb to his student years in the homophobic halls of prestigious Phillips Academy and Yale College during the 1950’s and 1960’s, through his confused early career as teacher, poet, and decorator in the 1970’s. In all this he shows himself an acute observer and recorder of the physical and emotional pain visited on a ten-year old who is too effeminate, a fifteen-year old not keen enough on sports, a twenty-year old hopelessly in love with his straight college roommate. To deal with the...

(The entire section is 513 words.)