John Leonard Nominations

Leonard Prize 2020: Chemically Enhanced Butch

By Claude Peck

NBCC members: If you’d like to contribute a review of an eligible book for the 2020 Leonard Prize, write to NBCC board member Megan Labrise at Read the rest of the reviews here.

Chemically Enhanced Butch by Ty Bo Yule (Wise Ink Books)

This memoir rocks. And hurts. And shines with tons of healing potential.

Yule grew up a self-proclaimed “tomboy,” the child of upwardly mobile parents whose hard work slowly propelled the family to the middle class. Yule ran away and came back home; did sports; experimented with boys, drugs, girls, and rock and roll; explored feminism, gay lib, San Francisco, and serial monogamy, as well as promiscuity. He went to the butchest dyke bars in California, rolled in early Pride parades with “Dykes on Bikes,” went to protest marches, fell in love first with femmes and “soft butches,” then with straight women.

Eventually finding his way back to the Midwest, Yule worked to finance, build, and operate a legendary, if short-lived, lesbian dance bar in Minneapolis. After it folded, he set off for Harvard Divinity School and, while a student there, began a course of hormone therapy.

Yule’s tales are rollicking, and he always lives at full tilt. Yule is a natural storyteller with a quasi-mystical belief in the power of his own magic. He learns about himself and his communities with humor, fortitude, and nearly zero self-pity.

I loved this book and believe it merits a wide readership and consideration for the John Leonard Prize.