Pigeon Pages Interview with Thomas Page McBee


Do you have a bird story or favorite feathered friend?

Pigeons, those much-maligned doves, have always been my favorite birds.

What is your most memorable reading experience?

My favorite book is Frankenstein. I read it every year, and I always find something new to love about it. I've incorporated it into both my books, and I think my next project will be a reimagining of the story. I'm obsessed.

What makes you most excited about Amateur?

Writing the book was a terrifying and beautiful experience. Now the it's out, talking about gender, and especially the ways masculinity is constructed, with folks around the world has been really incredible. I've been grateful for the connections this book has given me to people of all genders. I especially love hearing from boxers. 

To tweet or not to tweet?

To tweet, but not to tweet too much.

What books do you have in your bag right now?

This sounds nuts, but Frankenstein. Ha. And Soroya Chemaly's Rage Becomes Her (we just did a great event together in DC), which I recommend for everyone but especially men.

Can you tell us your favorite rejection story?

When I was in grad school, I couldn't get published in a literary journal to save my life. I was writing about monsters then, too, actually--long, poetic essays that, in retrospect, needed a lot more grounding. Anyway, all I got were rejection letters for basically two years. And then someone asked me, "If you could write anything right now, what would it be?" And, without thinking, I said "A Modern Love for the New York Times." It felt out of nowhere, but I think I knew I wanted to find my way back to the reader, and to the challenge of a very strict form. Anyway, I did, and they published it, and here we are, nine years later.

What literary journals do you love?

N + 1. One Story. McSweeney's. And online, I obviously love The Rumpus

What shakes your tail feathers?

Liminal space.

What advice do you have for fledgling writers?

I think asking yourself what you really want to write, regardless of what you think you *should* write, is a useful exercise. I try to do it every time I've got writer's block. And, once you have a project in mind, just commit to it. Give it some space and time to become what it needs to be. I love to read a lot when I'm starting something new. Really understanding my own creative process, and honoring it, has been so important to me in recent years. We all have our own rhythms. You don't need to do anything that anyone else is doing. Do you. 

What other eggs do you have in your basket right now?

This reimagined Frankenstein project, which I think will be a return to fiction for me. Or, prose fiction. I started working in TV this year, and I'm really enjoying the form and looking forward to what's next in that world. And I'm always writing nonfiction--I've got a story coming out on Topic about rites of passage and masculinity this month. I'm just flying wherever the wind takes me (sorry!).


THOMAS PAGE MCBEE’s Lambda award-winning memoir, Man Alive, was named a best book of 2014 by NPR Books, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, and Publisher's Weekly. His “refreshing [and] radical” (The Guardian) second book, Amateur, a reported memoir about learning how to box in order to understand masculinity’s tie to violence, was published in August to wide acclaim and was shortlisted for the UK’s prestigious Baillie-Gifford nonfiction book prize. It was named a best book of 2018 by the London Times and Book Riot.

Thomas was the first transgender man to box in Madison Square Garden, a “masculinity expert” for VICE, and the author of the columns “Self-Made Man” for the Rumpus and “The American Man” for Pacific Standard, and "Amateur," for Condé Nast's Them. A former senior editor at Quartz, his essays and reportage have appeared in the New York Times, Playboy, and Glamour.

Thomas has taught courses at the City University of New York’s graduate school of journalism; served as an advisor to the Knight Foundation/West Virginia University journalism school reporting project, 100 Days in Appalachia; and worked as a television writer for the Netflix show, Tales of the City. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife.