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Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  913 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Lambda Literary Award finalist

American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book

In the summer of 2009, butch writer and storyteller Ivan Coyote and gender researcher and femme dynamo Zena Sharman wrote down a wish-list of their favourite queer authors; they wanted to continue and expand the butch-femme conversation. The result is Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme. The s
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published April 1st 2011)
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Rating details
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Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer
I would say about 25% of the essays I really liked, 50% were forgettable, and 25% made me extremely uncomfortable. Things that I loved: reading about different kinds of gender expression and gendered desire. Things I didn't like: oppression Olympics, the who's-more-radical-than-who competition, anyone complaining about "butch flight" or resenting transgender or genderqueer people for abandoning "real butches." Some essays were wonderful.
Danika at The Lesbrary
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
If I could guarantee one thing, it's that at least one entry in this collection will piss you off. There are opinions all over the spectrum in this collection, and there is a lot to be debated. For example: do butch and femme constitute each other, or can you be a butch without a femme and vice versa? Are femmes more privileged by having "passing privilege", or are they invisibilized, or are people just not looking hard enough for femmes? Is the concept of "butch" too tied to whiteness to be use ...more
Jan magdalene
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
I don’t mean to be completely negative. there are a couple of good contributions. there are a couple trans woman. it isn’t all white people. but mostly it’s boring and repetitive and not very insightful observations about gender.

it dwells mainly on fond FA-lesbian memories of love and gender feels, some half-assed mostly-butch attempts at being all ‘it’s ok to be femme: it’s honourable or something’ there’s the writer who quotes obama and insinuates that trans women are inherently masculine (bu
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, essays
This is an anthology of writings on femme, butch, and more. It looks at how these identities have evolved and what they mean to individuals. With an excellent forward by Joan Nestle and two fantastic editors--Zena Sharman and Ivan E Coyote--I was very excited for this anthology. As a young person in Vancouver, Coyote's novels represented an universe I dreamed of accessing. I remembered the euphoria at seeing how my high school librarians loved them. However, it took me this long to finally pick ...more
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it
There were a small handful of essays that I really loved and more that actually made me pretty uncomfortable or angry, like the ones that argued that cis women femmes are "straight-passing" or that butches and femme men are the only people transgressing gender.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt-nonfiction
with something so heavily theorized, it's nice to get personal narratives; but then, personal narratives can also be just as grating, self-indulgent, and/or obnoxious as theory sometimes. I liked a handful of these essays: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a wonderful, powerful, smart writer; Victoria Brownworth's commentary on how lesbian identities in the mainstream are being so straightwashed, and the forcing of lesbians to be viewed as sexually available to men, is extremely important; I a ...more
Kat Heatherington
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
brilliant anthology. this collection of personal stories is thoughtful, relevant, insightful and frequently powerful. anyone interested in gender studies will find a goldmine of valuable material in this book. my one criticism is the same criticism i have for most gender studies books: where the heck are the bisexuals? in only a small selection of these essays is bisexuality mentioned or addressed. i valued those essays that much more for including us. on the whole, however, this book is incredi ...more
Actual rating: 2.5-2.7, maybe

I always like to think about what audience the author had in mind when I’m reading something, whether it be a short story, essay, or full-length novel. While reading this, I struggled with that question.

I identify as a non-binary gay person, “queer” when I’m feeling extra radical, and I identified with a couple of the stories in this, especially the first few (shoutout to “Home/Sickness: Self-Diagnosis” by romham padraig gallacher!) . But as I kept reading, they begu
Jean Roberta
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This thick collection of essays and manifestoes, with some poems, short fiction and brief autobiographies mixed in, is a current report on the diversity of queer gender identities in the twenty-first century. Its title is similar to that of an earlier book, The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader, originally published in 1992. Joan Nestle, a legendary femme writer who remembers the early Gay Rights movement, edited the first anthology. As she says in the foreword to the current book:

"When Iv
Margaret Adams
Picked up a copy of this at my friend Dave’s house in Santa Barbara – never met the roommate who it belonged to. A mix of stories, analysis, & stories-as-analysis, some very good, some much less so. The personal is political, etc.
Iskra Ryder
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
fascinating takes on butch and femme as identities
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, queer
Super hit or miss. Some gross gender politics (TERFy things, bizarrely essentialist things), some crappy, meandering writing. Also, and this is the strangest part for me personally, I'm in the book - as a character referred to as "S" in someone's essay about their gender development. Very strange to see a conversation I remember described and interpreted by the other person, on the page. Also makes me feel famous 💃
Eliot Fiend
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
loved it.
a few words of my greatest appreciation: thanks for helping me learn the names of my ancestors and remember to remember them.

our butch and femme and genderfucked, trans, genderqueer, in-between stories are all too easily silenced and whitewashed over even over a decade, a generation. books like this are important for young queers to read (and without having read it yet, "persistent desire" is now definitely on my reading list for the same reason.)

this book broadened my understanding o
C.E. G
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Some of the essays here were fantastic, but mostly I felt like they were written for a different crowd. As you can guess from the title, the essays here talk about butch and femme - being one or both or bouncing between the two. But there wasn't much about being neither, which is something I've been aching to read about. Not the fault of the book, but an explanation for why it wasn't a personal 5-star read.

Still, a lot of good writing, and I appreciated the diversity of voices, even i
For Books' Sake
Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
"At times simplistic, at times sentimental, at times uncomfortable and alienating, despite its flaws overall Persistence makes for fascinating reading. With a contributors’ list featuring authors, performers, artists and activists, there’s a diverse range of identities and experiences represented, from butch pregnancy to femme invisibility to sex work and all sorts that’s inbetween."

(Excerpt from review of Persistence: All Ways Butch & Femme at For Books' Sake)
Edited by the impressive team of Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman—an adorable married couple (see photo below)—the collection Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme (2011) certainly does live up to its name. It’s refreshing to see an anthology reflect a remarkable diversity of perspectives on these two loaded concepts and identities. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the Vancouver-based Ivan—a storyteller and writer—and Zena—a radical government bureaucrat and gender researcher, and from the fan ...more
I really liked to read a book that validated femme identity as more than just a choice to wear fabulous clothing. I also appreciated that most of the essays were personal stories as opposed to academic takes on gender theory. The anthology had a number of different voices that took part to create a more textured vision of the butch-femme dynamic. I do appreciate the effort, though it had its flaws.
Katie Mcintyre
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some of these were powerful and beautiful and great, and some of these just seemed to valorise (cis women) butch and femme identities at the expense of androgyny, trans* and other queer identities, which was just effing punishing, tbh. There really was a broad spectrum of essays and pieces, though, and many that I really enjoyed reading.
You know when you read a collection of essays & there are always a few that when you finish the book you feel a little unsatisfied?

This was not the case, in this instance.

A superb collection of essays exploring gender, sexuality & identity.

I also want to hang with almost all these people.
Emi B
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the best things i've ever read

as a femme, this book speaks directly to my heart. i've reread it...three times now? and every time i find something new that resonates with me. incredible, amazing, might actually buy a physical copy so i can hug it.
Rachel Godin
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you didn't have enough queer voices in your life, this book will introduce you to so many writers you never knew you needed in your life.
Emma Pettersson
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Sean Estelle
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic collection. Over under and through all sorts of gender complexities. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm rating this a 4 because overall the texts were pretty good. The author all have very different experiences and visions on the femme/butch thing and that was pretty great, some compilations like these can be a bit repetitive because they feature people who all think the same way, so that was refreshing, even though some texts included were a bit cringe-inducing.

For instance some of the texts implied that all trans guys were/are butch which is clearly false and I just can't believe we're not
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Truth: I didn't particularly like all the writings in this book, but I needed to read them. It might sound odd, but I'm a faggy butchy leather person who has really no patience for and barely any interest in literature that falls into queer or women's studies genre. I've read this book off and on, bits and pieces here and there for months and months. Some stories were fantasies (or retelling of facts?) and there was a poem or two that really got me going, but in general the bits that moved towar ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I haven't read the (now out-of-print) The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader that the title of this anthology is a nod to. I'm still trying to track down a copy at the Free Library. So I can't really comment on whether the two books are trying to accomplish the same goal, or if Persistence is more up-to-date and relevant, as some reviews have implied.

I was surprised how pleased I was with this book, since there's always the risk of anthologies feeling stale halfway through... like half of t
Thus far I'm shocked at how self-indulgent Joan Nestle's introduction is, from name-dropping to an outright "you'd better thank me for what I've done for you" kind of attitude. A better editor could have shaped it into something constructive, no? The rest of the book has been hit or miss so far. Unfortunate, because I'd read Ivan E. Coyote's midnight napkin scribbles, were they proffered to me! Will report back upon completion. So far the most standout have been Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha' ...more
Sooooo damnnnnnn gooooood! Very grateful to have picked this up at the library tent at Pride, otherwise it would have languished on my to-read list for a lot longer.

As with any book of essays, some are better than others. A few random favorites (and these are mindblowingly good!): Amy Fox, Amber Dawn, Chandra Mayor. Jeanne Cordova's was probably the most disappointing and frustrating: for some reason, she thought it would be a good idea to make a linear scale on which to organize all the gender
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this anthology of essays and stories about gender identity and sexuality enlightening. Even when you narrow the range of gender possibilities down to just butch and femme, the perspectives are still so diverse and complex. (I'm still trying to wrap my head around Michael V. Smith's male-to-male transition.) (Side note: back in the 70s when I was a radical young feminist, there was no space in the movement for people with penises.)

The collection is credible without being academic. It's ve
Dec 24, 2012 added it
Shelves: abandoned
I picked this up because I unabashedly love Ivan's work and thought I would learn a lot from it. I did. Some of the essays are beautiful and moving, but over half way through the book I had to put it down.

Everyone is entitled to their own self definition, but the labels and definitions feel limiting and prescriptive. To be fair, I should have expected that from the concept of the book.

Maybe I'll pick this up again in a few years and read through the essays that speak to me.
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Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of six collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last thirteen years they have become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writer’s festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam.

Ivan E. Coyote,

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