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Stone Butch Blues

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  10,770 ratings  ·  602 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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Community Reviews

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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
Apr 02, 2008 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Taylor Laminty
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
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
May 12, 2008 Kari rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Elaine Burnes
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 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
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.
I’m comforted by how lonely every person’s day to day life can be, and the phases of success and depression that the main character goes through. Continue to be startled at how violent our world can be. I’ve always heard guys talk about bullies and getting beat-up….but never have I seen it….yet the stories continue to flow, this time not from your average ‘guy’. A nice exploration, from a perspective other than mine, of what it means to be a female, a male, gay, lesbian, transgendered, all of th ...more
Rowan MacBean
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.
A. Gamble
How ignorant I am! I had no idea the amount of positive influence the labor unions had on lesbians, nor the amount of negative influence from the women's movement on "he-shes." The indignities and tortures faced by these women at the hands of the police are heartbreaking. I was surprised by my own lack of knowledge about this facet of the gay community at almost every turn. I knew "bad things" happened (and happen!) to people for no reason other than who they are, but I didn't know the level of ...more
Lisa Marie Gabriel
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
I enjoyed the first half of this book in an educational sense-- as a lesbian in modern society, I was utterly clueless on how difficult it was to be a lesbian, especially butch, in the 60s. The earlier parts of the book were informative and heartbreaking, learning about all the things these women went through. However, by the middle/end of the book, it was just flat writing. There are entirely too many characters in the novel to keep up with, and there is no imagery to form a mental story. I enj ...more
Elizabeth Bradley
I first read Stone Butch Blues at 20, but thought I’d re-read it in honor of the late activist Leslie Feinberg. While the story isn’t an autobiography, the protagonist – also a trans labor activist – seems to be a foil for Feinberg, even down to zer name, Jess Goldberg. Feinberg’s lived experience substantiates the characterization of Jess, such that Jess’s voice takes on a gritty corporeality rarely encountered in fiction.

At 20, I appreciated the book’s loving portrayal of both pre-Stonewall bu
Kernan Parrot
excellent historic look at a slice of gay history. had to take frequent breaks and hold my girlfriend for a long time after reading this, appreciating the privileges i have today due to the struggles those before me were confronted with
Eclectic Voice
This book....where to begin? Lets just say that I have owned MANY copies. Some I wore out because of how many times I combed through it. Some I gave away. I love this book.
Sarah Swedberg
This is not the best written novel ever, but it is a powerful story of a particular experience. Jess lives in a world of danger I can't imagine, but existed for women like her: working class and butch, without formal education beyond high school.

Women like Jess were the women who worked in the factories and spent evenings and weekends trying to create a community in a world that was outright hostile. They experienced physical, sexual, and psychic violence at the hands at those who did not want
I had to buy this book twice since I lost my first copy at a bus-stop. I really hope there is an indigent person somewhere appreciating it, but honestly, this is a book with a somewhat limited readership.

In all honestly, the writing in this book is only passable, but it manages to be engaging by virtue of emotional honesty.

The narrator/protagonist Jess talks about race in a way that made me uncomfortable. First, the trope of the innocent child who 'doesn't understand racism' seems most often in
so it's no secret i'm not a great fan of lesbian fiction (which may be an oxymoron), Jeanette Winterson aside. I think our strength lies in non-fiction. however, this was one of those books that i promised myself i'd read to understand what the butch/femme culture was about back in the day. perhaps because my expectations were so low, i surprised myself and really ended up loving it.

it horrifies me to think what these beautiful women had to endure just because they were makes our
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I have had this book sitting on my bedside table for literally three years. It took me that long to read it. This is not because I don't believe what Jess and Jess's friends and co-workers went through is true; to the contrary, I am quite certain it is. It's also not because it was too depressing or too sad or too much of a downer. I'm not that kind of a reader/person. My problem with Stone Butch Blues is that it is not very well written. I dunno. Maybe a nicer way to explain it is that the writ ...more
Sabrina Chapadjiev
It is really quite difficult to put this book down, as it absolutely sucks you into the tornadoed life of it's queer/trans hero who has to survive their own sexuality and gender without any guidelines. It was shocking, but necessary to remember the actual laws that were put into place to demean, degrade and effectively silence gay and transgender lifestyles. I don't want to give spoilers, so I won't, however- as these laws seem arcane, it also brings the current discussions of "Don't Ask, Don't ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity Bo...: Stone Butch Blues. 2 62 Mar 21, 2013 08:07PM  
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us
  • Boys Like Her: Transfictions
  • Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
  • S/He
  • Transgender History
  • Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation
  • Female Masculinity
  • The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader
  • Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
  • Butch Is a Noun
  • Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
  • Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community
  • Valencia
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
  • My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home
  • Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity
  • PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality
Leslie Feinberg is a transgender activist, speaker, and author. Feinberg is 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 appear in the Workers World newspaper. Feinberg's partner is the prominent lesbian poet-activist Minnie Bruce Pratt. Feinberg has also been involved in Camp
More about Leslie Feinberg...
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue Drag King Dreams Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba

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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!” 11 likes
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