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“A Strange Sort of Being”
preview of book “A Strange Sort of Being”
text of book “A Strange Sort of Being”

“A Strange Sort of Being”

Publisher: McFarland
Publication Date: 2012
Category: General
Grades: Highly recommended
Number of Pages: 241
Appropriate for: Upper-division undergraduates through faculty
Choice rating: 
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About this title
Born in 1829 to a working-class family in upstate New York, Lucy Ann Lobdell was not your average girl. Donning her brother's clothes, she worked on the farm and in her father's saw mill, and demonstrated marksmanship skills that earned her the nickname "The Female Hunter of Delaware County." After leaving home, she moved to the frontier, married a woman, and lived for sixty years as a man named "Joe." Because of nineteenth century social restrictions and gender expectations, Lobdell endured forced marriage, arrest, and incarceration in an insane asylum. Although twentieth-century scholars have labeled her a lesbian, this study incorporates queer theory, analysis of stories about Lucy and Joe, and Lobdell's own writings to reveal that he was actually a transgendered man.
About author
Bambi L Lobdell
Bambi L. Lobdell, Ph.D., teaches English and women's studies at the State University of New York, Oneonta.


Lobdell, Bambi L. "A strange sort of being": the transgender life of Lucy Ann/Joseph Israel Lobdell, 1829-1912. McFarland, 2012. 231p bibl index afp ISBN 0786448059 pbk; ISBN 9780786448050 pbk. Reviewed in 2012jul CHOICE.

Partly a rescued historical archive, partly an analytical commentary of that archive, this book is unique in that Lobdell (English and women's studies, SUNY, Oneonta), a budding intellectual, is writing about one of her own ancestors, one who has been the subject of an appreciable amount of study over the last hundred years. The subject, Lucy Ann/Joseph Israel Lobdell, was born into a female body but lived much of his life as a man; as such, he suffered endless harassment and discrimination during his lifetime, and according to this study his identity and voice have been twisted and obscured in several distinct eras. As much a discussion of discursive power (and abuse) as it is an argument for the recuperation of early transgender lives, the book takes issue with legal and journalistic texts that judged Lobdell during his lifetime, with second wave feminist reinterpretations of his life as a feminist frontierswoman, and with more recent discussions of Lobdell as a forerunner of lesbian identity. The author argues convincingly, albeit with much repetition and some pedantry, that Lobdell is best understood as transgender. Appendixes provide Lobdell's autobiography, testimony from his lunacy trial, and other valuable material.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. -- S. E. Cooper, California State University--Chico

Copyright © 2012 American Library Association


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