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Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man Paperback – December 26, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038702
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vincent, a tomboy from childhood, decided to see if the right makeup and skilled coaching could effect a sex transformation complete enough to get her accepted in her new guise as a man. For a year and a half, she went undercover to gather experiences such as joining a men's bowling league, getting a job in a testosterone-fueled door-to-door sales company, and going on a retreat with a secretive male empowerment club. Vincent's writing is quite evocative as she describes the process of becoming "Ned," but its disappointing that her narration doesn't demonstrate the masculine voice she developed. Her reading is mostly monotonous, only occasionally adding inflections that hint at the self-loathing she often felt as she deceived everyone she encountered. This abridgment omits two chapters, but the remaining ones still give an excellent sense of the project and the insights she gained. At the outset, Vincent notes that her experiment is not a sociological treatise but just a single woman's view of a guy's world. But her sharp powers of observation and crisp writing, which shine through even when her reading sounds bored, ensure that listeners finish feeling that they have learned a great deal along with her about the slippery workings of gender in America. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover. (Reviews, Nov. 14). (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Vincent's first experiment in cross-dressing came on a dare from an acquaintance who was a drag king. When she experienced the intoxicating invisibility and safety that came from wearing the disguise, she wanted to learn more. For 18 months, she disguised herself as a man, renamed herself Ned, joined a men's bowling league, visited strip bars, and dated women. Along the way, she found that the freedom and privileges enjoyed by men were counterbalanced by a constant testing and severe limits on emotions. She also found women to be distrustful, ever ready to criticize men for being emotionally distant yet clearly preferring men who met stereotypical images of strength and virility. Vincent is frank about her experiences--the hard business of sexual transactions devoid of emotions, the easy bonding between men, fear of sexual attraction among men, and, ultimately, the explosion of her own notions of sex roles. She also explores the guilt she feels about her deception. Writing from the perspective of a gay woman who had a view of the male world that women don't get to see, Vincent finds unexpected complexities in the men she meets and in herself as well. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Bravo to Ms. Vincent!
Bree Zee
What makes the book worth the read is the author's astute observations, especially in the Work and Self chapters.
Bette
The fact that she would join a men's bowling league, when she couldn't bowl was simply amazing.
C. Hudson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 167 people found the following review helpful By frfubar8 on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was lured by the title/cover photo....I was hooked by the synopsis and thought this would make a diverting read. I knew I would laugh at Ms. Vincent's exploits and adventures, what I was completely unprepared for was the sense of sadness that overcame me as I finished 'Self-Made Man'.

In her guise as "Ned", the author explores such bastions of manhood as strip-clubs, the world of dating women, a monastery and a men's support group. Her experiences are intriguing as well as entertaining and will make most people think about how men and women are perceived by each other.

I think this book should be required reading for any woman who is currently married, engaged to or in a relationship with a man. It made me seriously examine my attitudes towards men and my perceptions of their behavior. It underscores so sublimely the need for men and women to HONESTLY communicate with each other...on ALL levels.

The most telling point for me was when the author was at the men's support group retreat, when the members drew their heros & some drew Atlas holding up the world.

Read this book with an open mind, whether you are male or female and you will see there is more to it than just a cool stunt just for its own sake. I hope people will pick it up and give it a chance.
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164 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. VINE VOICE on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Norah Vincent is a respected journalist who went "under cover" by dressing as a man for an extended period of time. She interacted with men and women in various contexts: joining a bowling league, working a high-pressure sales job, even spending weeks at a monastery. She writes candidly about her experiences in "Self-Made Man." The book is funny in many places, unexpectedly poignant in others, as Vincent discovers some unsettling truths about what it's like to be a guy in today's world. The book is particularly refreshing in that it is not a guy-bashing book: one of Vincent's conclusions is that it is difficult to be a man and she writes about the different expectations and cultural conventions that affect the way men act and interact. Vincent is also frank about the effect her deception had on her: she is troubled by her deception and writes in the last chapter about her own emotional breakdown after she leaves her alter ego "Ned" behind.

A thoughtful, honest, fascinating book that will make you laugh and make you think. Brava, Ms. Vincent!
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on April 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Recently, a woman ended our dating relationship because she claimed she'd, "eat me up," and needed a different personality type in her life. In other words, I wasn't "man" enough for her. So, I wanted to get a woman's perspective on manhood to see where I might be lacking. How do they see us? What do they expect from us? I was initially worried that this book might be a repeat of Maureen Dowd's dreadful "Are Men Necessary?" But a quick skim of "Self-Made Man dispelled that notion. It's a well-written, thoughtful analysis of masculinity.

Norah Vincent disguised herself as a man, took the name "Ned," and then infiltrated a number of male-dominated venues (a blue-collar bowling league, a monastery, men's movement meetings, etc.). Like anyone venturing into a new culture, she went into our world with a number of preconceived notions. However, she was constantly surprised by her findings, and ultimately came to respect the male gender.

Although the entire book was fascinating, a couple of chapters were more applicable to my quest. For example, her take on the dating scene in Chapter Four was spot-on. As men, we have to endure a ton of tactless rejections. Women consider us losers and/or predators until we prove otherwise. Perhaps that explains my current ex's statement that, "a man views a woman as an accessory to add to his life, like a big-screen TV. However, a woman has to take on the man's life, have his kids, and so on. Therefore, she has a lot more to lose, and has to be much more discerning." While that's a somewhat cynical take on the situation, she has a point. But I'm dismayed that she confirmed the author's findings about the adversarial nature of modern thirty-something dating. It makes me lean even more towards lifelong celibacy.
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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful By J. Wilcox on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I gained more insight into male behavior from Ms. Vincent's viewpoint than I have as 46 years of living as one myself. I'm extremely glad she didn't do a superficial travel log through the world of men, or a "why men suck" type of expose.

The only thing that I didn't like about the book is that it left me wanting more information on some of the friends she met as Ned. Her writing made me as fond of her cohorts as she seemed to become herself.

Highly recommended reading that folks will clearly be talking about more and more.
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96 of 105 people found the following review helpful By M. Roberts on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As an old-school feminist, I began the book with all the pre-conceived notions about men that we've gathered over the years and hugged to our chests.

Bam! Norah Vincent dispels all of those and more in this can't-put-down book. A woman posing as a man. Sensational? Perhaps. However, Ms. Vincent has managed to write an unbiased, often touching and frequently very funny book about the lives men lead.

A lasting moment from the book, in my mind: Vincent's description of a male handshake with another man, warm and welcoming, v. a woman-to-woman hug and air-kiss, superficial and fleeting.

Certainly a landmark book, especially for those of us women who truly want to appreciate men and empathize with them.
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