Contented Reader

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Book Review: Stone Butch Blues

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Stone Butch Blues

Leslie Feinberg

Alyson Publications

Stone Butch Blues is worth reading as a history of the civil rights movement.  But it’s also worth reading as a novel, maybe a tiny bit melodramatic, but heartwrenching and engaging, with some great characters.

We meet Jess as a teenager who doesn’t fit in, a girl whose schoolmates taunt her with, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’  We follow her as she visits her first gay bar, takes pride in factory work and union organization, and navigates the complicated world of gender identity.  This is all long before Stonewall, and arrests and beatings and worse are part of the world of Jess and her friends.  We follow Jess through the 1980s androgynous lesbians, who don’t have room in their feminism for butches or femmes, all the way to nearly the present day.  Jess grows as a person while the movement grows around her.  It’s a fascinating journey.

If you’re curious about the history of GLBT people in America, you must read this book.  It’s assigned reading for the history class your high school didn’t offer, and, despite its flaws, it deserves its place in the gay literary canon.

It made me cry, though.

For some people, the either/or of male and female just doesn’t work well.  Jess is one of those people, and I hesitated when choosing pronouns to write about her. If you prefer ‘he,’ please feel free to delete my s’s.


Written by Contented Reader

July 19, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Reviews


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