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Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
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Stone Butch Blues (1993)

by Leslie Feinberg

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1,589307,184 (4.21)50
Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That's the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue--collar town in the 1950's, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist '60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early '70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence. Leslie Feinberg is also the author of Trans Liberation, Trans Gender Warriors and Transgender Liberation, and is a noted activist and speaker on transgender issues.… (more)
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English (27)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I've held onto this book for awhile, always hesitating to read it because I knew it would be tough read - reviews spoke of the rough style of the writing, and the subject matter - a young woman deciding to pass as a man in the 1950-60s midwest? That is some dark territory.

It's important to write about, and important to provide an honest picture for those who want to know what its like. Leslie Feinberg did not claim this novel to be biographical, but it felt honest. I understand what people meant by the style being dry and awkward, but I read this as a deliberate stylistic choice on the part of the author. Jess has felt different from earliest childhood, has been mocked and browbeaten and even hospitalized by her family as a child for crossdressing, which was still standard practice not so long ago. Personal expression is not going to come easily. Poetry speaks to Jess, but its hard to speak poetry yourself. Jess still tries.

The book is narrated from Jess' persepective, narrating school days, first visits to friendly bars, friends made and, inevitably, run-ins with the police. These are brutal depictions of state-sanctioned violence. The life was a hard one and people came in and out of your life with no guarantees of permanence and Jess' friends come and go and very few of them stick. A reader can only absorb so many monosyllabic male names without any description before they all blur together.

Its a shame the book is still out of print, its essential and even now there are few windows into this world. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
How is this book NOT on every progressive worker's list? It is a wonder (and you can get it free, BTW, so there's even less excuse) - a book that lives intersectionality while being a gorgeously written piece of fictionalized biography. Its complicated praxis of "being butch" is one of the greatest I've ever seen, the equal of Kate Bornstein's discussions of her own complicated gender identity. It's working class literature in a way that should make American lit's heart sing. I mean, it has unions, drag queens, the 1960s and 70s done without nostalgia...I cannot say enough about this remarkable book. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Just an incredible book. There are definitely critiques to be made (Mark Rifkin has an amazing one in When Did Indians Become Straight? that I strongly recommend,) but I just have such a deep response to this book. It hurts to read, sometimes, but it's so important and powerful, and I'm so glad it exists so I can read it when I need it. ( )
  aijmiller | Sep 10, 2018 |
As progressive as I deem myself to be, I still found myself trapped by stereotypes and assumptions about what it means to be butch and also gender identification while reading this book. This book really shed some light on how far we have come as a culture and how much further we need to go to create safe and loving space for all people to live and be as they are. There are some very violent passages in this book and even if you are sensitive to this in media (as I am) I still think this book is an important read for any person. I know many people who struggle with gender identification but this is the first time I really felt I had a glimpse inside the fear, the shame, the wild-eyed abandon, the love, grace, and beauty that breathes through those living in indiscernible gender roles. I thought it was excellent of the author to show the main character also showing weakness in stereotyping within her/his own group (butch loving another butch, rather than a femme). I know this book is highly cherished and I can see why. Wish I had read this with a book group, so many excellent discussion points and room for knowledge and understanding to grow. ( )
  ambersnowpants | Aug 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Feinberg attempts to present Goldberg's life as the personal side of political history, but the narrative seems unattached to time despite the insertion of landmark events like the Stonewall riot and the mention of Reagan and the Moral Majority.
added by DorsVenabili | editPublishers Weekly (Feb 1, 1993)
 
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