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Stone Butch Blues (1993)

by Leslie Feinberg

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1,811367,530 (4.24)52
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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» See also 52 mentions

English (33)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
  sharibillops | May 20, 2022 |
When I was younger, the experience of reading every book was absorbing and relevatory, but it has been years since I genuinely felt like a book opened a door for me. This book did that. It expresses a way of existing in the world with a specificity only possible perhaps through fiction. It's technically a little rough, perhaps especially in contrast to the afterword written by the author in 2003: the novel is a bit repetitive in its prose and its events, but the later words are much more eloquently strung together. There is heart in this book, though, and the urgency of a revolution. It's a different style of prose when people write unmoderated by the traditional neutered prose of literature; it's what I might call a manifesto tone. There is less concern about how the words sound in relation to the canon, and much more concern about what they mean. Writing truly for communication. This is a depressing, hopeful novel, a young and angry and good book.
Recommended by Karen. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
I feel like on this website sometimes I get gaslighted by books with really good endings and give them higher ratings than what reflects how i felt for most of the book. So maybe it's egregious to rate a ~classic~ 3/5, but in spite of that I did really like this book!

I guess the most obvious comparison to make would be Rubyfruit Jungle, and not just because both are about butch lesbians in the same era. Both have this Verisimilitudinous level of detail that makes it hard to believe the events in the book didn't really happen... and I think in both cases there's a lot of autobiographical elements to the story. So I respect that a lot, I don't want to know what's real and what isn't because it feels so much like a memoir.

Stone Butch Blues is also way more political than books that try to be, especially anything else I've read on similar subjects. Think... Nevada by Imogen Binnie. In comparison to this one, I really don't care about millenials who live in Brooklyn angst, because Stone Butch Blues is so much more incidentally political just by existing. There were no polemics or soapboxes addressed to the audience that take you out of the narrative, the politics were in the narrative itself. And on top of that, somehow it still covered a lot of ground without trying (gender politics, lesbians, class, race, unions, etc), which is perhaps a testament to intersectional activism that Feinberg lived for.

However it was really long!! So much bad stuff happened it felt like reading Charles Dickens. I know it's a portrait of a historical era and that all this bad stuff really did happen, but at times it felt pretty exhausting to read! Which is not to suggest that it should have been toned down or whitewashed, I'm not really sure what the solution is. The style was at once condensed and drawn out, and I feel like a lot could have been cut for repetition, but at the same time it felt like everything was happening way too fast, one thing after another. A lot was too convenient, sacrificing how real people talk to make a political statement or for melodrama. A lot of the metaphors were so forced too- omg the girl rabbit was actually a boy, I wonder what that could mean!

Anyway I don't mean to be too harsh on this book because it really did make me cry a lot of times. It's just that some of it was hard to read- emotionally and in that it's really really long. The ending made me happy though, and I loooooove Ruth so much! I think this book will stick with me for a very long time. ( )
  jooniper | Sep 10, 2021 |
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (2004)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
it's rare for me to rate so highly a book with as many problems as this one has. as a novel, it is full of issues. but as a history, and as an explanation, and as a call to action, it is so important. (on that scale it's 5 stars.) it took me a little while (maybe close to 100 pages) to get into the book because of the quality of the writing (not great, and it was disorganized) and probably because of my discomfort with the butch/femme dynamic, but once it started becoming more radical i was able to put all that aside. it's pretty incredible to see the changes in the lgbtq community over the last 60 years. every generation's community would be virtually unrecognizable to the one before or after.

it's so sad to me that leslie didn't live to see where we are now. where the gender binary is being smashed to pieces, where zie'd be accepted without question in our community. (at least, in some places this is true. maybe not yet in the smaller towns zie was living in and writing about.) where the pronoun "they" is becoming more and more common, and people don't have to choose to be or feel male or female; they can be either or neither or go back and forth. i wish leslie could have felt that acceptance, and the pride in knowing zie were a part of making it happen, getting us to this point.

this is also about labor organizing and more, and all of that is super important, but my focus in reading was definitely on gender and presentation and the queer community.

i have never understood the butch/femme thing (a privilege of my generation, i think), but this book shows how brave - how seriously brave and strong - the butches and femmes of the past truly were.

"...I thought how brave she was to have begun this journey, to have withstood the towering judgments."

"Who was I now -- woman or man? That question could never be answered as long as those were the only choices; it could never be answered if it had to be asked."

"'Once upon a time...' She wove a story about a little girl who traveled out into the world to find the sorcerer who would tell her what she was supposed to do with her life. But on the way the girl was confronted by a fire-breathing dragon who blocked her path. She was very frightened by the dragon. 'What shall I do?' the girl cried out. Suddenly she noticed a huge boulder balanced on the cliff above. If she could push the rock, it would fall and kill the dragon. But how could she get up there? The girl called out to an eagle, 'Brother Eagle, please help me slay the dragon!' And the eagle swooped down and lifted the girl up to the cliff. The dragon saw the boulder falling, but it was too late. When the rock crushed the dragon, it disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The girl was very happy, but she was afraid the whole mess had made her late on her journey and now she'd never find the sorcerer. That evening she stopped and camped under a weeping willow beside a river. She started a small fire to cook her hot dogs and went into the forest to find more wood. When she returned, she found the sorcerer sitting by her fire, toasting marshmallows. She knew it was the sorcerer because he was wearing a tall pointed cap with stars and moons on it. So she sat down and asked him, 'Mr. Sorcerer, please tell me what I'm supposed to do with my life.' And the sorcerer smiled and told her, 'You are supposed to slay a dragon.'" ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | Apr 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (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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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.

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