Title: When Butches Cry
Author: Genta Sebastian
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads summary: “Reveling in her contrariness, Traf’s got no time for ‘good’ women who conform. She competes with men, wears male clothing, and steals their jobs. A fighter, damn the consequences, she’s totally unsuited to the mundane role of a mid-twentieth century Azorean woman. Traf dreams of going to America where women do as they like, make their own money, and live without the permission of men.
Emotionally damaged by past relationships, Ana is convinced she’s hopelessly inadequate. She joins an unprecedented type of private club, a group of women loving women calling themselves Troublemakers. The golden-haired beauty could have her pick of lovers, but her heart yearns for the mischievous butch with dark, brooding eyes. Fascinated by Traf since they were schoolgirls together, Ana knows her crush is hopeless; how could such a cocky, not to mention arousing, woman ever love her?
Gossip, sexism, priests, the US Air Force, and even their families, oppose them at every turn. Battling to exist in peace, Traf, Ana, and the other Troublemakers develop a unique subculture of support for each other, but no one is prepared When Butches Cry.”
First of all, look at that title! 😍😍😍 Be still my beating heart! Haha okay I’m joking but I LOVE stories about butch women because I don’t feel like we get enough of them. Maybe there are plenty out there and I just need to search harder, but after reading this wonderful book I felt the need for more tales of wonderfully complex and compelling butch women.
It took me a while to write this review. I actually finished this book back in October (I know, super late with this review!) but didn’t quite know what I wanted to say about it yet. And then life kicked my ass for the past few months and reviews got put on the backburner as you can tell. This was a fantastic historical fiction story about lesbian women who live on the island of Terciera in the 1950s/1960s. These women create their own community in which they live, laugh, love and support each other beautifully. They also have some amazing experiences, including working on the US Air Force base and travelling the world.
There were some great passages in this book but one that stuck out to me the most was (keep in mind I received this from Netgalley and there may have been some editing done in newer, published editions of the book – although I hope not in this instance since this passage was perfect):
“It was one of those times, rare but inevitable, that she wished desperately she could be normal and fit in so the busybodies wouldn’t pick on her. Sometimes it felt like everyone in the whole world knew a secret and were all trying to keep it from her. I don’t fit in anywhere, no matter how much I try.”
Praise hands, praise hands everywhere!!! This passage really resonated with me, even though I have not experienced most of the hardships that Traf and her friends have had to endure. But there have definitely been times in my life when I wished that I conformed better to society’s standards because it would be easier to live my life in some ways. I’m a socially anxious person and if I feel like people are judging me or see something in me that I don’t want them to see, I freak out a little. And I have never really felt like I could completely be myself around people. There have been a few people here and there that I have been comfortable with to be more of myself than ever, but there are still parts of me that I hide and I know Traf and some of her fellow maria rapaz friends could relate to that.
The story of these Azorean women who courageously choose to live their lives honestly and openly was inspiring. The experiences they had, the women they loved and the lives they built for themselves kept me reading until it was much too late and my eyes were burning. But I did not want to put this story down even when it broke my heart. I don’t really want to say much else and spoil this wonderful story but take my advice and READ IT.
Note: I haven’t been doing the Queer Stories Believability Scale much lately because most of the queer stories I read have been #ownvoices stories and I don’t feel the need to police their queerness. I may still occasionally use this scale if a book is particularly bad or not #ownvoices.
*I received this book from Netgalley and Sapphire Books Publishing (who publish some amazing books btw!) in exchange for an honest review.Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this novel*