Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme

Coyote, Ivan E. and Zena Sharman (Eds).  Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme.  Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011. 

This collection is, from my (admittedly limited) perspective, a thing of beauty.  Real-life partners (butch and femme respectively, if it matters to ya'll) put together a complex and diverse collection of queer voices to delve into modern (or postmodern:) butch and femme identities.  And it works.  It really works.  The result is an open space of negotiation and dialogue, a place to disclose, divulge, and sometimes even grapple and fumble with what those identities mean alongside the myriad of other identities and social positions and family histories we carry with us. 

There are so many standout essays and stories in the collection that it's difficult for me to pick out a few to tempt you with.   But oh-so-tempting they are.

Belinda Carroll's "A Guide to Getting Laid by a Girl in Lipstick and High Heels" made me laugh my ass off - because as a girl who likes to go out in lipstick and high heels - I know very well what it feels like to be invisible in one's own community and I'm nowhere even near what folks would call 'high femme' (still try being femme-y and throw in a few kids to the mix.  Invisible, friends, is what you get).  Anyways, it is a fabulously tarty read, as Carroll proclaims (making me love, love, love her. A LOT): "What we need, my little tattletale, is a kick in the gaydar.  Just because I wear a dress and more make-up than Hedda Lettuce doesn't mean I can't throw you around and make you call me Daddy.  I have references" (188).  Mmmmhmmm.   So you see why it was love at first read for me? 

Chandra Mayor's "Me, Simone, and Dot," is filled with the gorgeous language Mayor has become known for - intermittently beautiful and biting.  She explores femme identity in relationship to and intermingled with familial experiences of womanhood.  This one is definitely worth the read - especially a particularly funny footnoted sound-off on feminists and potlucks, which is, in a word (hmmm, is it still one word if it's two words hyphenated?) spot-on.

Ivan E. Coyote's two essays were my absolute favourite offerings from the realm of butch, resulting, I'm not too proud to admit, in a very large crush.  (How perfectly 'bored housewife' of me, no?)  In  "A Butch Roadmap," Coyote writes: "I first became something I had no name for in solitude and only later discovered the word for what I was, and realized there were others like me.  So now I am writing myself down, sketching directions so that I can be found, or followed" (93).   What follows is indeed a roadmap, filled with humor, with anger, and with the kindness and bravery it takes to leave such a roadmap for those who might follow this path afterward.  Coyote's second essay, which closes the book, is called "Hats Off."  And it made me cry.  Not just a little.  "Hats Off" is a really touching thankyou, as Coyote puts it: "[t]o all the beautiful, kick-ass, fierce, full-bodied femmes out there" (310).  And then follows with this:
"I know that sometimes you feel like nobody truly sees you.  I want you to know that I see you.  I see you on the street, on the bus, in the gym, in the park.  I don't know why I can tell that you are not straight, but I can.  Maybe it is the way you look at me.  All of my life I have been told that I am ugly, I am less-than, I am not a man, I am unwanted.  Until you came along, I believed them.  Please don't ever stop looking at me the way you do" (310). 
Okay.  Heart.  Mush. Mush. Heart.  Just sayin'.  It gets even better, but you'll have to read it for yourself to see why and how.   

There are so many other gems in this book.  With titles like these: "Futch: Notes From the Borderlands" (that one's for you, Laurie M.!), "Rogue Femininity," "A Dad Called Mom," "FEMME SHARK MANIFESTO!," and "Brother Dog," how could they not be? 

Buy it.  Support Canadian queer writers and get a fucking great read in the process.  Seriously.  How can you go wrong? 

1 comment:

  1. another great recommendation. I wonder if West Van Library will purchase it, as per my request? We'll see!