I’ve been sitting around all week trying to think of what to say about the wonderful Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, a Lambda award-winning novel first published in 1993.
I couldn’t decide how to possibly summarize what a wonderful job Feinberg does of giving an honest, simple, true voice to pre-Stonewall LGBTQ communities, to the transgender experience, to labor activism; I also couldn’t decide if I should try to write down all the various thoughts, quasi-academic and otherwise, that have been floating around my head since I finished the book; or what.
I will give a bit of a summary here, although not too much as to give the novel away. The novel centers around Jess Goldberg, who grows up in Buffalo during the 60s, is rejected by her family young, and has to learn to carve out a working-class life, first as a “butch” and later passing as a man in the 70s. Violence is endemic to every phase of Jess’ life, turning Jess to the “stone” of the novel – but Jess still manages to be an inspiring, thrilling, hope-inspiring character after every bout with violence and rejection.
That’s the best I can do for your summary. Ultimately, though, I worry that all of my ideas and thoughts and analyses aren’t really all that important. So instead to close my thoughts, I will simply offer up a quote from Jess and a Very Important Fact about the book itself. Here’s the quote:
“When I was growing up, I believed I was gonna do something really important with my life, like explore the universe or cure diseases. I never thought I’d spend so much of my life fighting over which bathroom I could use.”
The Very Important Fact is that this book is available for free on Leslie Feinberg’s website. Despite Leslie sadly no longer being with us, having passed away in 2014 at the age of 65, the 20th anniversary version’s free availability is a testament to Leslie’s tireless work in the struggle for justice. So anyone can go read it! Please do.
Now that Stone Butch Blues is over, I need to pick something else up in its place, and I’ve been hemming and hawing over where to go next. So many options! I think I’m going to go with either Dorothy Canfield Fisher (who also published under Dorothea Canfield) or Caroline Gordon.
And since one cannot live on 20th century literature alone, I’m about halfway through Audre Lorde’s nonfiction essays in Sister Outsider – a wonderful collection that is always a joy to return to. Anger, hope, love, humor, rage, then hope again – all in one slim volume.
To those in the States, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families – hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday! Be thankful, as always, for books.