Stone Butch Blues

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Stone Butch Blues
Stone Butch Blues cover.jpg
Front cover of 2004 Alyson Books paperback edition
Author Leslie Feinberg
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Firebrand Books
Publication date
March 1993
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
ISBN 1-56341-030-3
OCLC 27336208
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3556.E427 S7 1993

Stone Butch Blues is a novel written by activist Leslie Feinberg about life as a butch lesbian in 70's America.

Plot Summary[edit]

The narrative follows the life of Jess Goldberg, who grows up in a working class area of upstate New York in the 1940s-50s. The bulk of the novel takes place in the 1970s. Jess is aware from a young age that she is different from other girls. She hates wearing dresses, and often received the question—"Are you a boy or a girl?"—from strangers.

The contempt of her parents and the hatred of most of her classmates become so oppressive that she runs away from home shortly before her sixteenth birthday. She finds a new family in the coworkers in the factories where she works, and the butches and femmes who frequent the gay bars of Buffalo, New York.

Throughout her life Jess is plagued with the feeling of not fitting in. Even when she is allowed to dress in masculine clothing, the rules about how to be a butch do not always fit. Jess becomes a stone butch as a result of her traumatic experiences, which sometimes gave her trouble when it came to sex and relationships.

When jobs available to butch women begin to dwindle Jess decides to take testosterone and "pass" as a man. She feels this is the only option she has left at getting a job and feeling more at home in her own body. But "becoming" a man alienates her from the lesbian community and keeps her from creating meaningful relationships as she was forced hide her true identity. In the end, Jess decides to stop taking hormones, although she continues to have a complicated relationship to her own gender identity. After moving to New York City she develops a close friendship with her neighbor, a trans woman, and this relationship gives Jess a sense of belonging she has not felt in the past. At the end of the book, she becomes an activist, and speaks up for the rights and dignity that every human being deserves.

Publication history[edit]

The novel was published by Firebrand Books in 1993. It was picked up by Alyson Books in 2003. A 20th anniversary edition was released in 2014[1] A free e-book edition is currently available on Leslie Feinberg's website. Feinberg requested that the 20th anniversary edition was made available for free as "part of hir entire life work as a communist to “change the world” in the struggle for justice and liberation from oppression."[2]


1994 Lambda Literary Award finalist in the category of Lesbian Fiction, tied for win in the category of Small Press Books[3]] 1994 American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Award (now Stonewall Book Award)[4]

Major Themes[edit]

Stone Butch Blues is most commonly described as a genderqueer narrative. It is sometimes seen as postmodern because of the ways it presents gender as a signifier lacking a fixed referent in the body, and the way Jess's identity breaks down the categories of male and female.[5] As such, it is also about crossing boundaries and seeking home. Jay Prosser writes that, "Jess does not feel at home in her female body in the world and attempts to remake it with hormones and surgery."[6] Because of her masculinity, she is also not at home in her community of origin, and thus the search for home becomes a theme as well. While physical changes help Jess to feel more at home in her body, Jess has greater difficulty finding a home in the world. Ultimately the book takes a stance of supporting coalitions.

Stone Butch Blues is also a novel of the working class. Much of it takes place in factories in Buffalo, NY. The novel involves a great deal of union organizing and discusses the treatment of working class people. The novel shows how gender and class intersect to shape Jess's identity, by portraying her discomfort with the middle-class feminists who disdain both the butch and femme identities that are standards of Jess's working-class community. Cat Moses writes that, "Stone Butch Blues is informed by an underlying yearning for the development of a revolutionary class consciousness among the proletariat, across gender and racial divisions."[7]


Stone Butch Blues has been translated into Chinese[8], German[9], Italian[10], Hebrew[11], and Slovenian[12].


  1. ^ "Stone Butch Blues". 
  2. ^ "Leslie Feinberg". Leslie Feinberg. Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  3. ^ ["Lambda Literary Awards" Check |url= value (help). 
  4. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards". 
  5. ^ Clarke, Deborah (2011). "Gender and the Novel". The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction. Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  6. ^ Prosser, Jay (1995). "No Place Like Home: The Transgendered Narrative of Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues". MFS Modern Fiction Studies. 41 (3-4): 484–508. 
  7. ^ Moses, Cat (1999). "Queering Class: Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues". Studies in the Novel. 31 (1): 74. 
  8. ^ "Lan diao shi qiang". 
  9. ^ "Stone butch blues Träume in den erwachenden Morgen". 
  10. ^ "Stone Butch Blues". 
  11. ^ "סטון בוץ' בלוז". 
  12. ^ "Nedotakljive". 

External links[edit]