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March LezRead: My Butch Career and Pregnant Butch

  • Jim Toy Community Center 319 Braun Court Ann Arbor, MI, 48104 United States (map)

We're continuing to read both a graphic novel and traditional book each month. This month we're doing My Butch Career, by Esther Newton and Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, by AK Summer. Descriptions below!
My Butch Career, Esther Newton
During her difficult childhood, Esther Newton recalls that she “became an anti-girl, a girl refusenik, caught between genders,” and that her “child body was a strong and capable instrument stuffed into the word ‘girl.’” Later, in early adulthood, as she was on her way to becoming a trailblazing figure in gay and lesbian studies, she “had already chosen higher education over the strongest passion in my life, my love for women, because the two seemed incompatible.”

In My Butch Career Newton tells the compelling, disarming, and at times sexy story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her identity during a particularly intense time of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century.

Newton recounts a series of traumas and conflicts, from being molested as a child to her failed attempts to live a “normal,” straight life in high school and college. She discusses being denied tenure at Queens College—despite having written the foundational Mother Camp—and nearly again so at SUNY Purchase. With humor and grace, she describes the influence her father Saul's strong masculinity had on her, her introduction to middle-class gay life, and her love affairs—including one with a well-known abstract painter and another with a French academic she met on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico and with whom she traveled throughout France and Switzerland. By age forty, where Newton's narrative ends, she began to achieve personal and scholarly stability in the company of the first politicized generation of out lesbian and gay scholars with whom she helped create gender and sexuality studies.

Affecting and immediate, My Butch Career is a story of a gender outlaw in the making, an invaluable account of a beloved and influential figure in LGBT history, and a powerful reminder of just how recently it has been possible to be an openly queer academic.


Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, A.K. Summer
First pregnancy can be a fraught, uncomfortable experience for any woman, but for resolutely butch lesbian Teek Thomasson, it is exceptionally challenging: Teek identifies as a masculine woman in a world bent on associating pregnancy with a cult of uber-femininity. Teek wonders, “Can butches even get pregnant?”

Of course, as she and her pragmatic femme girlfriend Vee discover, they can. But what happens when they do? Written and illustrated by A.K. Summers, and based on her own pregnancy, Pregnant Butch strives to depict this increasingly common, but still underrepresented experience of queer pregnancy with humor and complexity—from the question of whether suspenders count as legitimate maternity wear to the strains created by different views of pregnancy within a couple and finally to a culturally critical and compassionate interrogation of gender in pregnancy.

Offering smart, ambitious art, this graphic memoir is a must-read for would-be pregnant butches and anyone interested in the intersection of birth and gender, as well as a perfect queer baby shower gift and conversation starter for those who always assumed they “got” being pregnant.

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About LezRead:
LezRead is Ann Arbor’s premier book club for queer women. We meet on the fourth Saturday of the month from 4-6PM at the Jim Toy Community Center (319 Braun Court, Ann Arbor, MI).
* As always, we’ll spend the first hour talking literature at JTCC, and the second hour having drinks and snacks at the the Aut Bar.
* Don’t forget that we take up a small collection for use of the Community Center. If you can, please bring a small cash donation.
* New members welcome! Email to join the private Facebook group.

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Earlier Event: March 23
Spring Cookie Celebration!
Later Event: March 23
NOLA Swing Party