bull-jean & dem/dey back collects two performance/novels centering Sharon Bridgforth’s southern-Black-butch-sheroe, bull-jean.
First published by RedBone Press in 1998, the Lambda Literary Award-winning the bull-jean stories chronicles the course of lovve returning in the Life-times of bull-dog-jean. Set in the rural 1920s south, the bull-jean stories is an act of griot-anthropology, remembering the ancestor we never knew but always knew we needed—the raucous, sweet-talking, heart-aching wo’mn-lovvn-wo’mn bull-dog-jean and the fierce and beautiful community that surrounds her.
Twenty-two years later, bull-dog-jean returns in bull-jean/we wake. Grieving the loss of their elders, seeking healing, the Narrator calls forward bull-jean. Through a series of dreams, porch prayers, and visitations from cussing conjurers, Black Mermaids, children that fly, and shape-shifting ole folk, bull-jean and dem guide the Narrator towards a realization of the sustaining power of love, memory, community, ritual, and spiritual binding.
"Open bull-jean gate
and conjure rises from the unbroken page into the soul—
which is surely deeper than it was before."
"Sharon is solar. She has a powerful central gravity; she gives off light and gives life a faithful reference—she writes from cause and her writing causes writing. Sharon’s fierce honesty liberates delight and calls up compassion’s responsibility. Noun by noun, diphthong and elision and swoop and nuance and sublimity at a time, she launches language that shares itself into an ambience of enlightenment. She reads us, and reading her we are brought up to our best selves. Her writing is material and complex enough to take on true love." —Erik Ehn
"Sharon Bridgforth’s work is like breathing. It is both necessary and life-giving. I inhale the warmth and cool of her soulful southern lyricism and am able to exhale into bull-jean herself. Black/queer/masculine/butch/big-hearted/bull-dagger bull-jean. How wonderful to have this boldly crafted character guide us through the complicated terrain of love-making, love-conjuring, love’s breaking, and love’s lasting. And to witness her power become fully manifest in her relentless search for that romantic love. And how wonderful to have bull-jean back again, in her old age, to help guide us into healing, remembrance, and transition. Sharon Bridgforth’s language channels in this new story as a gift from the ancestors: Dance, music, and rituals long forgotten. Love, a measure of what we leave behind. In the end, Bridgforth challenges us to consider if we’ve loved radically enough to become those loving ancestors we seek." —Donnetta Lavinia Grays