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Stone Butch Blues

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  13,527 Ratings  ·  733 Reviews
Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the "Ozzie and Harriet" McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town. Stone Butch Blues traces a propulsive journey, powerfully evoking history and politics while portraying ...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published November 2003 by Alyson Books (first published 1993)
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Feb 14, 2008 Y rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-taught-this
i teach this novel to college students, and have taught it for about three years now. there is no other book, in my opinion, that divides a class so radically -- some students love this book and cant stop reading it, despite acknowledging that it is one depressing representation of americas history of hatred against those who live outside of the gender binary, and others hate it for the writing style, which is admittedly not the most sophisticated out there.

other students hate it because they s
Powerful. I feel crushed.

Stone Butch Blues is rightfully regarded as a classic in the LGBT+ community. It's a devastating and powerful book, and refuses to step away from how difficult life was then, and how for many people it still is.

I marvel at how much difference there was for people like us over the past ten years, to say nothing of the past fifty or sixty. Today it's acceptable for an interracial bisexual couple to be the happy ending in a children's TV show, and sixty years ago our exist
Mar 12, 2008 Liz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
I do not give many 5-star ratings just because I consider a 5-star rating to be hard to attain by anyone. But I HAD to give 5-stars to this book. I almost feel as if it is cliche to say this book is AMAZING since so many people feel the same way. But I suppose that is just an attestment to the fine work that Leslie Feinberg has done in presenting Jess Goldberg's story and the struggle and oppression that she went through. Utterly heartbreaking at times, this book will take you through the entire ...more
Jun 07, 2015 Nouf rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
"Actually, you said Love, for you,
is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s
terrifying. No one
will ever want to sleep with you."

Richard Siken, Crush

I finished Stone Butch Blue and I can't let go of the book at all, still I'm holding it, I feel attached to it. There's this burning sensation that accompanies great books that alter you --which are extremely rare-- it's so bittersweet. What am I gonna do after this phenomenal work? It's been so long since a book shattered me,
Morgan M. Page
Jan 10, 2017 Morgan M. Page rated it it was amazing
I had put off reading Stone Butch Blues for well over a decade. At first it was because I didn't think it was relevant to me, a young trans woman. Everyone framed it as "a lesbian novel" or meant for trans men. I couldn't see how I would relate to it, then. But people kept recommending it, or assuming I'd read it. Later, I resisted reading it because I didn't want to like the thing everyone else liked and assumed I would like.

Across those many years, a new canon had emerged: trans women's litera
Feb 05, 2013 EinsteinShrugged rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Leslie Feinberg's novel is one of those books that pops up on lists of influential or otherwise 'Must Read' books over and over again. In nearly all of its reviews, people praise it for being groundbreaking and representing the first real voice transgendered people had in the world of literature. Indeed, Stone Butch Blues is a groundbreaking and monumental accomplishment.

But that doesn't mean it's any good.

There's a nice twist of irony in that every other character in the book is an over the top
Jan 07, 2011 Natalie rated it really liked it
This one was difficult to rate. I give you a complicated review for a complicated book.

This is a coming-of-age novel of sorts about a transgendered/gender queer person.

To be honest, I wasn't that into the first half of the book. The writing feels really unpolished and forced, the characters lack any depth or description, and a lot of the narrative seems like a cold retelling of historical facts. I'm also totally unfamiliar with the lingo involved in the trans movement of the 50s and 60s, so I
Jan 31, 2008 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-5-books-ever
ok, I know everyone and their mom thinks this is the best book ever, and really it is quite amazing and so is everything that Leslie Feinberg does. But i have to say besides all the reasons everyone loves this book I remember the exact moment I read the opening letter in this book and how I was totally blown away. Not just because it was this brutally honest confession about being stone butch, but just because it that kind of letter where you say everything you ever meant to and it was beautiful ...more
Jun 11, 2016 El rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: The F-Word
This entire story is so important, but before I get into that, I just want to share the most important words in this novel which come at the end in Feinberg's own Acknowledgements:
"I am typing these words as June 2003 surges with pride. What year is it now, as you read them? What has been won? What has been lost? I can't see from here; I can't predict. But I know this: You are experiencing the impact of what we in the movement take a stand on and fight for today. The present and past are the tra
Mar 02, 2008 Bridget rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book reminded me of how fluent I used to be in academic-speak, and how much of that I seem to have lost. I like to think if I was immersed in it again it would come back to me. But I know from Spanish that it wouldn't be immediate, and that it's my own fault for not keeping it up. I'm finding myself unable to say anything significant about it without using the complicated words and phrasings that used to pour out of me and are now tired and dusty and put away somewhere inaccessible. The boo ...more
Jan 13, 2015 BrokenTune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"She pointed to the circle the ring cast on the ground. I nodded, acknowledging that the shadow was as real as the ring. She smiled and waved her hand in the space between the ring and its shadow. Isn't this distance also real?"

Warning: This is a ramble.

THIS is the book that caused my recent reading and reviewing slump. Having finished Stone Butch Blues, nothing looked in any way interesting enough to move on to. Nothing I typed out made sense, or, even if there was some sense in it, it did not
Apr 17, 2016 Aseel rated it it was amazing
Inexpressibly and unequivocally moving and eye-opening. I love when a book storms through my life and shakes my core and makes me see what other people, different than I, see. I loved the writing style so much I wanted to devour every word. The tone set throughout the novel was consistent and the rhythm it created was soothing, in spite of all the horrid things Jess had to go through.

It took a while to read the book entirely, because with books like this one, I'm always rereading every good line
This book was just phenomenal. I don't think I've cried so much on public transport reading anything. It is so sad and so insightful. I've read a lot of books about being queer in the 50s and 60s but none of them were anywhere near as honest as this. Here you have women and men who risk not only being arrested for being in the gay bars but tortured and raped, they know this will happen to them but they still go as it's the only place they can be themselves. The book covers several decades and lo ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Evie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
It's been a long time since I've been able to invest myself in a book. I run around with ten projects on the go every day, and when I try to relax at night by reading I just look through the page and don't absorb a thing. It takes me months to finish a book anymore.

That being said, this is the first book that I have truly loved in a very long time. I thought I was broken, that reading had lost its appeal because it was just another "to-do" on my list and I just didn't find I was truly enjoying
Oct 06, 2009 Jennie rated it it was amazing
There are some books that are so big to a genre or a topic that they are seminal. This is one of those books. If you are looking for a book to read so that you understand the experience of an LGBTQ person, this is (the) one to read. If you want to know the history of the LGBTQ movement, this is a book to read. If you want to understand the concept of gender not being binary, this is a book to read.

In short, if you are curious about the LGBTQ experience/history, if you are trying to explain your
Jan 08, 2015 Priyanka rated it it was amazing
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
-From Childhood’s Hour, Edgar Allen Poe

Stone Butch Blues creates such a real and violent world filled with the emotional truth that many trans people live with – day in and day out. In a highly truncated version – it is about a he-she Je
Rashika (is tired)
The reason why I am giving this book 3 stars is because as much as I loved the book, I also had trouble getting behind the writing. I don't like prose-y language but I also don't like obvious metaphors and this book tends to be full of them. It makes sense why the author includes them but I also had a hard time not rolling my eyes when I came across one.

Nov 17, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender, struggle, lgbtqia
This was beautiful and brave and I so loved it. It wasn't easy to read though, if only because we live in a society that reacts with horrifying fear and violence to difference -- something that thankfully is changing, and all because of women like Leslie Feinberg. I moved this to the top of my to-read list after seeing the outpouring of love and grief after her recent death from among so many of my friends, and now I too can mourn her properly. I wish I had read it long ago.

It opened up a whole
Taylor Laminty
Apr 15, 2013 Taylor Laminty rated it it was amazing
I read this book back in my senior year of high school, about five years ago. I was reading it myself, but I remember I found myself wishing I could share the emotional impact and historical significance of the novel with the people around me.

Reading one of the reviews here reignited my interest. She referred to the letter at the beginning of the story, which I had forgotten about, and how powerful it was. I pulled the book from my bookshelf, just looking to re-read the specific letter and the p
Wes Bishop
Nov 27, 2015 Wes Bishop rated it it was amazing
For a cisgender male like myself, I really wish a novel like this had been assigned in my high school. As I have told many people before, I was largely unaware of the concept of "transgender" until I was nearly out of college. Growing up in a conservative area of Ohio, it was common to hear anti-LGBTQ sentiment from adults and leaders in our community, so much that LGBTQ people rarely spoke up when I was growing up. The result was a complete veil of ignorance for people like me, an erasure of ex ...more
May 04, 2008 Suzynyc rated it it was amazing
Stone Butch Blues is first of all a contemporary "Well of Loneliness", which in and of itself is a remarkable accomplishment. It brings the transgender experience into the current in an intensely personal and human way. It is also a panorama of the political developments of the latter half of the 20th century,told by a Butch lesbian Communist. What is most important is that it makes that story universal. It doesn't matter whether you are straight or gay. The book speaks to you of the human condi ...more
Apr 12, 2008 Kari rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was kind of formative for me, it made a big impact on me as a teenager and again, half my life later. I found my own thought echoed in the book and realized how it somehow shaped me. It's a difficult story to read - my teenage self imagined it set in such a distant past. But really the story ends well and I think that's really the part that stays with you.
Mar 21, 2008 M. rated it it was amazing
a work of activism more than a work of art. still activates 15 years later.

EDIT 2015: what a jerky review! obvs this book is art, too. lol. leaving intact for purposes of humility.

Has anyone taught this recently? I'm wondering how it reads to contemporary, esp social-justice-savvy, college students, esp. whether it reads fast or requires a lot of time?
Elaine Burnes
Jul 07, 2010 Elaine Burnes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lesbian
You need to read this book. Unless you have lived this story, you need to read this book. The younger you are, the more you need to read this book. This is important stuff. This is why we do what we do here. We read to understand. We write to explain. We need all our stories.
This is one of those books that blows your fucking mind. The first few pages were a bit hard to get into, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. It should come with trigger warnings but it is beautiful in its own way.
Mar 11, 2009 Alaina rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, queer
I sometimes forget that there was a time when we were not safe. It is good to be reminded. Each kiss on the street corner tastes sweeter with freedom.
This is the horrifying reality of most genderqueer people. It was devastating to read the real trauma instead of just imagine it. The end is wonderful, in that you can't have everything but you get what you need kind of way.
Lisa Marie Gabriel
Nov 21, 2013 Lisa Marie Gabriel rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, lgbt
Wow! What a tough story! I was recommended by a friend to read this book, which is an autobiographical novel of a woman just a few years older than myself. It was a real eye opener and at times it had me in tears. The inhumane treatment that she and women like her suffered, not just at the hands of vicious thugs, but also at the hands of the cops who were ALSO vicious thugs was next to unbelievable! How could one human being do this to another simply because of the way she looked? Why would thes ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Myles rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, literary, c20th
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 mean
Rowan MacBean
Jun 11, 2010 Rowan MacBean rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's kind of difficult to figure out how to say what I thought of Stone Butch Blues. I'm not sure if it was mediocre writing or conscious style choices, but it felt a little choppy and there were parts where the technical writing made me cringe a little. But the subject matter is so near and dear to me that it probably could have been utter crap and I still would have mostly enjoyed it and taken something away from it.

I don't think I've ever read anything with such a colorful cast of characters.
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The F-word: June FICTION selection STONE BUTCH BLUES 17 43 Jul 01, 2016 09:42AM Bo...: Stone Butch Blues. 2 73 Mar 21, 2013 08:07PM  
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Leslie Feinberg was a transgender activist, speaker, and author. Feinberg was a high ranking member of the Workers World Party and a managing editor of Workers World newspaper.

Feinberg's writings on LGBT history, "Lavender & Red," frequently appeared in the Workers World newspaper. Feinberg's partner was the prominent lesbian poet-activist Minnie Bruce Pratt. Feinberg was also involved in Camp
More about Leslie Feinberg...

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“If I'm not with a butch everyone just assumes I'm straight. It's like I'm passing too, against my will. I'm sick of the world thinking I'm straight. I've worked hard to be discriminated against as a lesbian” 27 likes
“everybody's scared, but if you don't let your fears stop you, that's bravery!” 14 likes
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