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Man Made: A Memoir Hardcover – March 5, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; First Edition edition (March 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585420832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585420834
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,095,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ken Baker was a working-class boy from Buffalo, New York, who dreamed of playing professional hockey; his idea of masculinity was formed by a father who chain-smoked, warned his sons that "girls will ruin your life" (he had to marry the author's pregnant mother), and sneered at doctors' warnings to mend his bad habits--"You gotta die of something." But Baker had a tumor in his brain that flooded his body with the female hormone prolactin; he leaked milk from his nipples and could hardly ever have an erection. His wince-inducing memoir pulls no punches and uses no euphemisms in telling what it was like to be a sexually dysfunctional man in a sex-saturated society. Female readers may take a certain grim satisfaction in learning that men, too, can feel vulnerable and sexually exploited, but most will simply marvel at Baker's willingness to reveal the gory details of his failure-riddled sex life. Although he makes some high-minded claims about the insights he gained from his ordeal ("I was able to journey to a biological place few men will ever know.... My manhood today is stronger because of it"), what's really gripping here is his blow-by-blow account of what it felt like to dread sex instead of chase it, to approach intercourse as a test rather than a pleasure. We can only be relieved that surgery restored him to hormonally normal masculinity at age 27, although the girlfriend who stood by him through it and then listened to him explode with testosterone-charged rage when she complained about his subsequent insensitivity might disagree. Baker's slick prose reflects his background in celebrity journalism (he worked at People and is now a senior writer at Us), but there's no denying the fascination of his bizarre story. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Describing the locker-room banter of his college hockey team, Baker writes, "They don't realize how lucky they are. If they like a girl, just about the only thing stopping them from being with her is the girl. I also have to contend with myself." While locker-room epiphanies are ubiquitous in male gender studies, Baker's memoir about struggling with masculinity in contemporary culture is unique. Throughout his adolescence and early adult life, he suffered from a massive overabundance of prolactin--the hormone that allows females to produce milk. This imbalance, caused by a benign tumor in Baker's brain, engendered a host of physical problems, such as impotence, excess fat on his hips and breasts and sensitive nipples that would occasionally excrete a milky substance. While much of the book traces Baker's long medical quest for the cause of these unsettling symptoms, the heart of the book is a meditation on how society constructs maleness and what happens to men who do not fit the mold. Baker's account of his boyhood is well observed but ordinary, while his detailing of his adult romantic life is painfully adroit. Some of the best parts of the book show Baker's growing awareness of the role that homophobia plays in constituting "appropriate" social maleness: from seeing his father making fun of "faggots" in his youth to covering gay activist protests against Pat Robertson's homophobic religious views. A senior writer at US Weekly, Baker has a breezy journalistic style that may attract those outside the realm of gender studies. While his specific medical problem may be too singular to interest a mass readership, his contemplation of the social prisons of gender and sexuality is not. Agent, Jane Dystel.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
I really enjoyed reading this for college.
A. Verneuille
A well written, compelling story about what happens when the body becomes one's own worst enemy.
N. Russell
About half of the books I read aren't good enough to justify the time spent reading them.
Mr. Brainwash

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By world class wreckin cru on April 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A prolactinoma is a pituitary gland tumor that produces excessive amounts of the hormone prolactin. This slow-growing tumor accurs in both men and women and is often not identified as the source of health problems until it has grown to a rather large size. In a male, excessive prolactin has an emasculating and feminizing effect. Testosterone levels decrease, the sex drive all but disappears, and erections are practically impossible to achieve. To make matters worse, when prolactin reaches high enough levels in the blood, it can cause males to lactate.
At least 10 years of Ken Baker's life was spent in the confusing world created by his prolactinoma. He was unable to understand why the rest of the guys around him were so sex-obsessed. He could not figure out why 500 sit-ups a day didn't flatten his stomach even though his fellow hockey players were able to build up their bodies with less dedication. He didn't understand why a young athletic male such as himself could rarely ever achieve an erection. He didn't know why his headaches were getting worse, and he certainly had no clue why he was lactating. But to designate Ken Baker's years living with a prolactinoma in his head as an emasculated hell would not do justice to his profound experience. He has had the rare opportunity of observing the members of his own gender with the mindset of someone somewhere between male and female. He saw us for what we are. The obsession with sex, the never-cry-in-public manliness, the male chauvinism, and other characteristics we as males possess, Ken Baker could not relate to. When finally diagnosed and treated (most importantly, when sex drive and erections returned), he was finally able to understand why so many men possessed the characteristics that he had disdained for so long.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Glenn on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a man diagnosed with the same malady as the author, reading about someone who had endured the same misery as myself was both shocking and reassuring. Ken Baker describes his journey in compelling and sometimes painfully honest prose. His description of a descent into a torturous abyss is rivaled only by his ascent from the very depths of despair. Most of my family and closests friends have read this book and have a new found understanding for the hell some of us have endured. Mr. Baker's book is a worthy example of the power of the human spirit.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By N. Russell on March 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. On one level Man Made is a psychological and sociological memoir. More importantly however, it's just a plain old good read-- as entertaining as it is thought provoking. In a natural, anecdotal and seemingly effortless style, the author tells the tale of his journey through boyhood and into early adulthood, while simultaneously bringing the reader along on a spiraling tumble into a crisis of health, self-awareness, manhood and humanity. The author shares some valuable and unique insights into gender rolls, manhood in modern America, and the way that we all interact with and view one another, and ourselves, as men and women. A well written, compelling story about what happens when the body becomes one's own worst enemy. Man Made is an all-around good read-- I recommend that anyone pick it up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ken Baker's Man Made is an honest, insightful look at the author's struggle to define himself as a man -- a struggle complicated by an undiagnosed pituitary tumor and made even more interesting by the fact that he was a star athlete living a very "macho" existence. Baker's book has universal themes of identity, sexuality, and self-discovery that he packages in a highly readable, briskly paced and ultimately very poignant memoir. The book raises timely issues about whether it is nature or nurture that makes us behave and think the way we do. How biologically proscribed is manhood, or is it merely a cultural construct?
A must-read that will appeal to anyone who's ever wondered about what makes you "you." .
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By Mr. Brainwash on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is fascinating on many levels. Although it doesn't address philosophical concepts directly, it makes you wonder how much of your identity is really up to you. You realize that you're masculine insofar as your biology allows you to be. An errant tumor on a gland in the author's brain changed his entire identity, especially at a time in one's life where identity is the most formative.

One could draw parallels between the author's abnormally increased prolactin levels and the effects of antidepressants.

Books require a great time commitment. About half of the books I read aren't good enough to justify the time spent reading them. I'm glad I read this one.
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More About the Author

Ken Baker is an author, journalist and TV personality. Ken's debut novel "Fangirl" tells the story of a pop star who falls for a devoted fan and gets caught up in a tabloid-ready love triangle. Ken has cited as inspiration for the teen love story his front-row seat to the world of celebrity fandom as E! Entertainment's Chief News Correspondent.

The Buffalo, New York, native's first foray into writing was the keeping of a personal journal, which he kept through his college years at Colgate University and later at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His early penchant for personal reflection laid the foundation for his first book, "Man Made: A Memoir of My Body," which told the story of his battle with a brain tumor that he overcame at age 28. Ken followed up that critically-acclaimed book with another memoir, "They Don't Play Hockey in Heaven," which chronicled the year he spent as a pro hockey goalie after recovering from his health crisis.

Ken's first work of fiction was the 2005 satirical novella "Hollywood Hussein," a farcical take on the American capture of Saddam Hussein, which was followed by his co-authoring "The Great Eight: How to be Happy Even When You Have Reason to be Miserable."

A resident of Hermosa Beach, California, Ken is currently at work on a new novel that is set in the world of Hollywood that he covers for E! News.