Faith Reidenbach's Reviews > Crybaby Butch

Crybaby Butch by Judith Frank
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it was amazing
bookshelves: read-queer-fiction

The best fiction I've read that zeroes in on class and race from a white (Jewish) person's perspective. The main character, Anna, is a butch Jewish lesbian in her first year of teaching adults to read. She was born upper middle-class but, despite her PhD, she's living lower middle-class because she can't get an academic job. We learn a lot about the principles and methods of adult basic education, and since I was once a literacy tutor, that interested me in itself.

Most of Anna's students are people of color and poor. Here's how far the author's consciousness has been raised: she has Anna reflect on why she chose to read Bastard Out of Carolina to the class, not Push. But Anna makes some naive mistakes, especially with Chris, a white working-class bulldagger who came of age in the 50's. We learn all about Chris's life, too; in fact, it may be fair to say that Anna and Chris are equally the protagonists and antagonists of the story. Butch-on-butch action.

To give us a sense of the other students, now and then the author slides in and out of their heads, short shifts of point of view that arrive unexpectedly but are handled expertly.

The book contains just over 400 pages of small print, and it feels long. There's too much detail of things like showers and coffee drinking, and a couple of characters could have been dropped or combined. Otherwise, it's an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable achievement. The plot is much richer than I can convey here. Winner of the 2004 Lambda Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction.

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Reading Progress

January 13, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 24, 2009 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Anne (new)

Anne I absolutely loved this book. Read it twice, which is rare for me. It touched me on so many levels, from Anna's frustration at not being able to use her Ph.D to get a desired spot at a university to Chris' much harder struggle to survive, let alone thrive, as a stone butch and an illiterate. Really great writing.

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