Stone Butch BluesToday I finished teaching Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues in my Lesbian & Gay Lit class. I have to admit that I’m frustrated with teaching this novel. I’ve taught it 4 or 5 times in the past 6 years, and I seem to have the same issues each time I assign it.

It’s unquestionably one of the most important GLBT novels ever written, and I sincerely love it. Perhaps more than any other book I teach, it’s a wise novel and an educational novel. Students can’t possibly come away from reading it without learning a lot about transgender issues, gender issues, race issues, class issues, and just life in general.

But there are also problems with teaching it. My biggest gripe is that this novel always seems too difficult to get. This year, for example, I had wanted to start my class with Blues, since it provides such a rich sense of history; I thought it would be a great way to get into the subject matter of our course (post-Stonewall GLT lit — we’re not really doing any bi stuff). But several of my students couldn’t get a copy of the book during the first week or two of class because there weren’t enough copies at the bookstores. This is the second time in three years that my students have had trouble buying it. I assume this difficulty comes from the fact that everybody teaches it, making it difficult for the publisher to keep it stocked and for bookstores to get enough used copies. But it’s so frustrating to have to reorder the syllabus — and thus disrupt my perfectly arranged reading list — in order to give students enough time to get copies of the novel.