Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stone Butch Blues

I just finished reading Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, which is the February selection for my book club. The Omaha Public Library only had one copy, so I bought my own. I'm glad I did, because I can imagine wanting to read it again in ten years. This book stirred up my heart in more ways than I can count. Although it's fiction, it reads like an autobiography. You could approach it as a lesbian novel, or a transgender tale, or a gritty story about a blue-collar worker and sometime union organizer.

The main character was complex and layered, and she felt like a real person. She could be my neighbor, or the person in front of me at the grocery store. And she experiences all of the horrible things that human beings do to another--terrible abuses at the hands of police, coworkers, hospital staff, and strangers on the street. At times while I was reading, I was absolutely furious--not at the book, but at the world it portrayed--because I knew things like that really happened. (Sometimes they still happen. Maybe LGBTQIA people are able to live more openly than we used to, but society always finds someone new to focus the hate on. Right now in the US, it seems to be illegal immigrants.)

But the book isn't about cruelty. It's about not only surviving the abuses but (eventually) growing. All the things that happened to the main character forged her into a strong person. For all her deep wounds and through all her self-made armor, she remained able to love and to see beauty. The overarching theme of the book is learning to accept one's self, when one's self is unacceptable in the eyes of society.

As the author said in her afterword (for the 2003 edition), "Never underestimate the power of fiction to tell the truth."

I don't care who you are or what your life is like. Read this book.

1 comment:

sectheatre said...

Amazing book. I have had a copy for years.