A remarkable coming of age story, Becoming a Man follows Monette on his path from deeply repressed boy in 1950s New England through the Ivy League and into a young adulthood in which he finds himself and his pride through the dream of “the thing I’d never even seen: two men in love and laughing.” Honest, intelligent and unafraid of either anger or affection this is a remarkable look at ideas of manhood, the dynamics of family and community and the struggle to find (or make) one’s place in the world.
“What steered me from the schoolmaster’s fate was coming out. Something I couldn’t do on my own: I had to meet Roger before I could take the final step. Yet once I opened the door to him, it felt as if I would never have to look back again. I’d shed the deadweight of Little Paul and his shut-up heart, and now all I had to do was love. Except that love turned out to be not simple at all. Or at least it would get more difficult the deeper it got, asking a kind of honesty that a life of hiding had left me unprepared to negotiate. For it turned out there were closets within the closet, and a lingering self-hatred that even the joy of connection couldn’t solve. What love gives you is the courage to face the secrets you’ve kept from yourself, a reason to open the rest of the doors.”
Writing Prompt 1
While in sixth grade, Monette sees a group of bullies led by Vinnie O’Connor torment another boy because they perceive him as being gay. Monette, frightened of drawing attention to himself, does nothing. Write a scene in which someone does intervene. What are the results of that? For them? For the bullies? How might this affect a young gay person watching?
400 – 700 words.
Writing Prompt 2
While he is still a boy at school, Monette’s mother catches him with a male friend. All she says is “What’re you boys doing?” To which Paul answers, “nothing.” Imagine what she is thinking and feeling at that moment, and immediately afterwards. Write it down in an interior monologue.
400 – 600 words.
Writing Prompt 3
After college, Monette spent some time living in a cottage on the beach at Cape Cod. During this chapter (6), he describes encountering a man walking his dog who shows interest in him but he is too nervous and uncomfortable with himself to respond. After this encounter he returns to the same spot every day hoping to see him again. Write an internal monologue describing his thoughts and feelings as he waits.
350 to 550 words.