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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
5.0 out of 5 stars The sad life of a butch Oct. 13 2002
Format:Hardcover
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 Absolutely compelling... one of my favorites! Nov. 20 2001
Format:Paperback
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Triumph in the face of insummountable odds May 8 2001
By Rachel
Format:Paperback
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 "norms" of our society. Stone Butch Blues opened my eyes even further than before to the pain and anguish that is caused by not fitting in. It also showed how ridiculous Western concepts of sex, gender and sexuality really are when we consider a society where people like Jess exist. Obviously, there's something wrong in the way that most of us conceptualise the world.
Stone Butch Blues shows a world before feminism, where people like Jess had an awful time trying to get anywhere - where fear could dictate a persons actions entirely. It shows the plight of people who aren't "normal" to succeed in this world and to be proud of who they are.
Despite the obvious hardships that this novel shows it is not a dreary movie about tragedy and how bad the world is. It is a story of hope and of inspiration - showing that the world can change - and that you can change it. Regardless of your age, sex, gender, race and so on, it is possible to survive and to make an impact on the world.
Stone Butch Blues is a fantastic novel and I would recommend it to everyone with an open mind. I would not, however, say that it is everyone's cup of tea as it can be quite graphic and disturbing. Despite this, try and read the book - it will open your eyes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph in the face of insummountable odds May 8 2001
By Rachel
Format:Paperback
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 "norms" of our society. Stone Butch Blues opened my eyes even further than before to the pain and anguish that is caused by not fitting in. It also showed how ridiculous Western concepts of sex, gender and sexuality really are when we consider a society where people like Jess exist. Obviously, there's something wrong in the way that most of us conceptualise the world.
Stone Butch Blues shows a world before feminism, where people like Jess had an awful time trying to get anywhere - where fear could dictate a persons actions entirely. It shows the plight of people who aren't "normal" to succeed in this world and to be proud of who they are.
Despite the obvious hardships that this novel shows it is not a dreary movie about tragedy and how bad the world is. It is a story of hope and of inspiration - showing that the world can change - and that you can change it. Regardless of your age, sex, gender, race and so on, it is possible to survive and to make an impact on the world.
Stone Butch Blues is a fantastic novel and I would recommend it to everyone with an open mind. I would not, however, say that it is everyone's cup of tea as it can be quite graphic and disturbing. Despite this, try and read the book - it will open your eyes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An important chronicle of Herstory Feb. 24 2000
Format:Paperback
"Stone Butch Blues" is the story of someone "different" in a world where difference is not tolerated. This book is an important chronicle of herstory for the gay/lesbian/bi/TG community.
Without spoiling it for the reader, what is more horrendous than anything else in this book are the chronic "raids" the gay community had to endure in their gathering places, and the foolish rules they had to follow.(ex. in gay bars, women could be arrested if caught dancing with other women, women had to go into the ladies' room one at a time and were monitored to make sure they did)
"Butch" women, women who could not 'pass' as straight, ran or hid in the bathroom during a police raid.
Even more humiliating is the police brutality if a "Queer" got arrested: just for being who they are. Being arrested was a fear Jess lived with her entire life, not because she feared arrest, but because she feared what would happen next.
How the cop responded to Brandon Teena (All She Wanted by Aphrodite Jones) will not surprise you when you see how the cops have exploited and violated "Queers" for years. It's their job. It's part of what we, as taxpayers, pay them to do.
The brutality of hate and oppression is part of the cultural conditioning of all "real men" that we, as taxpayers, pay our educators to nurture in our children. I wonder if we, as taxpayers, are creative and caring enough to make it stop.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Singing the blues
Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues is a dialogue from a butch named Jess from behind a wall too tall to see over. Read more
Published on April 29 2009 by garrett hendriks
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book immediately!
I have read "Stone Butch Blues" five times, and I still find new things to grab my attention and make me think. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2002 by James
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic!
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. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2001 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars stone butch blues
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... Read more
Published on June 6 2001 by Deann Redmiles
4.0 out of 5 stars stone butch blues rocks
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. Read more
Published on May 13 2001 by vanessa morel
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
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. 8 2001 by G. Sebastian
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