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Stone Butch Blues: A Novel [Paperback]

Leslie Feinberg
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 2004

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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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This compelling but uneven first novel follows the sexual travails of lesbian Jess Goldberg. At its start she is a girl who feels confused by strict ideas about gender and who wonders if she might be a "he-she" since people often ask whether she is a boy or a girl. Constantly searching, she quickly moves from trying on her father's suits to visiting bars and transforming herself into a full-blown "butch," complete with her own dildo. As police crackdowns on gay bars result in more than one night in jail, Goldberg decides to begin taking male hormones and have a breast reduction in order to pass as a man. Although she delights in visiting the barber and being able to use the men's room--and even manages to make love to a woman without being discovered--the emotional complications of changing her sex (and hence her identity) build up until she ceases to take her hormone shots. Certain transmutations, like her lowered voice, cannot be reversed, however, so she is now even less defined as a member of a specific gender. Goldberg and her like-minded friends who have embraced the butch/femme dichotomy find they have no place in either the nascent women's or gay pride movements. 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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Leslie Feinberg is the author of Stone Butch Blues, and 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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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Singing the blues April 29 2009
Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues is a dialogue from a butch named Jess from behind a wall too tall to see over.

Walls are built to close things off, to protect - sometimes to keep whats inside safe, othertimes to isolate people within. The protaganist Jess, had them built up around by others for not being something they could understand, and by herself to stay hard enough to stay in a world that didn't want her in it.

Jess tells about about never having the words to describe how she feels or to create her own voice and make it fit. Its hard to fit when you're trapped by the world outside gender, outside sex, and stuck walled into yourself.

I swallowed this book in two days - a quote I once heard is drumming in my head, "to live and die properly we must take back our words."
This is one of the only things I've read that has given me new words, made old words have meaning again. When I finished I felt like something in me I didn't notice took form, and had a voice, as part of me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The sad life of a butch Oct. 13 2002
I found Stone Butch Blues to be a truly amazing novel; I too had a hard time putting it down. As a heterosexual male from the SF Bay Area, I have been exposed to homosexuals, but have never really been "behind the scenes" of the struggle for gender equality. Stone Butch Blues was a gripping and consistently sad account of the life of a tough yet sensitive "butch" and I learned quite a bit from it.
Jess definitely had to "walk a difficult path" in life as was prophecized early on by her neighbors and caretakers. The ever present emotional and physical struggles involved in Jess' life were heartbreaking and most of the time she found herself "drowning in loneliness." It is interesting to read the literary talent on display when Feinberg describes the first time Jess sees Rocco, or Jess' first dance, or when she asks Theresa to marry her. Feinberg has the ability to clearly describe these characters, create memorable scenes, and simultaneously lift your heart rate.
I thoroughly enjoyed this eye and mind opening book and in the process gained an insight that formerly didn't exist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book immediately! Feb. 12 2002
By James
I have read "Stone Butch Blues" five times, and I still find new things to grab my attention and make me think. The first chapter admittedly starts out really slowly, but don't get discouraged! The second you start Chapter 2, there is no putting the book down. It is an amazing narrative about the human will to survive, come hell or high water (and believe me: Jess, the protagonist, confronts way worse). I know that sounds cheesy, but this novel is anything but! You don't have to be transgender or lesbian to appreciate this novel. Just human.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely compelling... one of my favorites! Nov. 20 2001
I first read Stone Butch Blues in 1993, and was completely blown away. Eight years later, the emotion and complexity remain with me. One cannot come away from this book unchanged. Powerful, provocative, and deeply moving. A classic.
Leslie Feinberg weaves a fictionalized autobiography through the story of Jess Goldberg. At the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, and class we find Jess.
Growing up in upstate New York, Jess struggles with gender identity. Leaving a difficult home life, Jess stumbles upon the the underground butch/femme lesbian bar world, and finds a place as a stone butch. The need to earn a living leads Jess to blue-collar factory jobs, where passing as a man provides increased job security.
We join Jess on her turbulent (and sometimes violent) roller coaster ride through life. Yet Jess survives, even triumphs, and the journey to Jess's self-actualization becomes a part of the reader.
Set in the 1950s-1970s, this book contains a glimpse of lives and struggles that are too often forgotten or unknown. A crash course in the complexity of the human condition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic! Oct. 25 2001
I first discovered Stone Butch Blues in college, and it was one of those transformative books that changed the way I looked at myself and the world around me. Leslie Feinberg, in hir life and hir work, gracefully hands us a slice of history, and explores the intersection of butch/femme culture in the 1950s and the way gender touches all of our lives and relationships. Deeply moving, true to life and full of love and triumph, this book is a true classic. It should be required reading for anyone interested in lesbian lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars stone butch blues June 6 2001
this book rips your heart out, puts it back in, let's you heal a bit then rips it back out. This book is powerful and intense I couldn't put it down, I've loaned it out and my friend has loaned it out yet again, I doubt I'll ever get it back, great book, don't pass it up
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4.0 out of 5 stars stone butch blues rocks May 14 2001
Stone butch blues is a touching story that attempts to explain the life of a young girl, Jess, and her journey into the culture of being different. From as long as she can remeber, Jess has never been like her peers, instead she is classified as the "other". The book describes her pain and hardship as she learns who she is and waht she is destined to be. Realising that she is a butch, a he-she.Through her experiences, both negative and positive, Jess finaly finds herself.This book draws upon various issues, such as discrimination and women's liberation, prividing an insightful experience in the life of a person who differs from the norm.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest We Forget...
Stone Butch Blues is a powerful and moving novel that informs the reader about the penalties paid by those who transgress gender norms while demonstrating the freedom experienced... Read more
Published on May 8 2001 by Sharilynn Gerchow
4.0 out of 5 stars Triumph in the face of insummountable odds
Being heterosexual and never really had to step out of society's 'norms' I have not ever (until recently) considered what it would be like for those who do not live inside the... Read more
Published on May 8 2001 by Rachel
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph in the face of insummountable odds
Being heterosexual and never really had to step out of society's 'norms' I have not ever (until recently) considered what it would be like for those who do not live inside the... Read more
Published on May 8 2001 by Rachel
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine piece of work
This novel made me cry. The characters were real and the storytelling heartfelt. This is far from fiction; this is a book that all gay and lesbian people should read, in order to... Read more
Published on March 23 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars such a good book
i read this book upon the recommendation of a friend and i couldn't put it down. i had to keep reading to find out what jess decided to do next. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2001 by Melissa L. Hutchins
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gender Mind Bender
Leslie Feinberg has written a work of fiction that makes you think twice and three times about just what it means in this world to be a woman - or a man. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2001 by G. Sebastian
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