Sandra Butler is an old white woman. There have been years in which this sentence would have identified me as a feminist, or a Jew, an anti-racist activist or a middle-class mother with middle-aged daughters, a lesbian partner becoming a widow, or any of the other shifting central identities I’ve inhabited over the past 83 years. I’ve written three books with a fourth on its way. Full Body Scan: An Old Woman Tells (Mostly) Everything is a collection of personal essays about life in the slow lane and will be making its debut sometime later this year.
My first book, Conspiracy of Silence, The Trauma of Incest, was published by Volcano Press, 1978; 2nd edition 1985; 3rd edition 1996. My second, Cancer in Two Voices, Spinsters Inc., 1991, coauthored with my partner Barbara Rosenblum, was the winner of the 1991 Lambda Lesbian Literary Award. The third, It Never Ends: Mothering Middle-Aged Daughters, written with Nan Gefen, won Silver in the Psychology category of the 2018 Independent Book Publishers Association Awards.
The words silence and voice in the titles of two of my books are at the center of my writing and my activist life. Breaking silences. Saying what has been unsaid or had been considered unsayable. Conspiracy of Silence: The Trauma of Incest broke the silence around the ubiquitous nature of incest through the voices of women who had been violated as children. Cancer in Two Voices allowed a window into the private lives of a lesbian couple navigating the anticipatory death of one and loss of the other. It Never Ends: Mothering Middle-Aged Daughters identified the necessary recalibration of authority, autonomy, and independence as both mothers and daughters age.
I co-produced the documentaries Cancer in Two Voices (1991) and Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House (2004). Both films screened in Toronto, Montreal, Berlin, and Sundance, and are valuable windows into LGBTQ life and death.
My deepening Jewish study and practice led to several trips to Israel/Palestine, where I began to integrate my spiritual life with my progressive politics. “The Heart of the Matter,” describing that process, was published in Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation in 2010.
I served on the founding editorial board of Persimmon Tree: An Online Magazine of the Arts by Women Over Sixty as we created a resource for older women writers. Our efforts stemmed from a foundational feminist axiom. If there is a resource needed for women to expand their lives, dreams and possibilities that doesn’t yet exist, then create it. And we did.
As the mother of two daughters, surrounded by women who have accompanied my life for the past forty years, a library that is always in danger of overflowing onto every available surface, a jazz collection that begins in the l940s and slows down in the l980s, and tremendous gratitude to be alive in this moment, this site is a glimpse, just a glimpse, into some of what it has been to be me.
Be in touch.