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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

This article is about the book. For the film, see Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (film).
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a 1976 novel by Tom Robbins.

Plot summary

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues tells the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a woman born with a mutation (she would not call it a defect) giving her enormously large thumbs. The novel is a transgressive romp, covering topics from homosexuality and free love to drug use and political rebellion to animal rights and body odor and religions. Sissy makes the most of her thumbs by becoming a hitchhiker. Her travels take her to New York, where she becomes a model for the Countess, a homosexual tycoon of feminine hygiene products, who introduces her to the man whom she will marry, a staid Mohawk named Julian Gitche. In her later travels she encounters, among many others, a sexually open cowgirl named Bonanza Jellybean and an itinerant escapee from the Japanese internment camps happily mislabeled "the Chink." Robbins finally inserts himself into the novel as a character as well.

Literary significance & criticism

"Cowgirls" was a favorite of the late 1970s anarchist hippie counterculture. Robbins writes short chapters filled with philosophical asides and quips (such as noting that because amoebas reproduce by binary fission, the first amoeba is still alive) and often speaking to the reader (chapter 88 begins with the narrator noting that the book now has as many chapters as a piano has keys). Informal but intricate, it's the model of a cult book.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel was made into a 1993 film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, Pat Morita, Angie Dickinson, Keanu Reeves, John Hurt, Rain Phoenix, Ed Begley, Jr., Carol Kane, Victoria Williams, Sean Young, Crispin Glover, Roseanne Arnold, Buck Henry, Grace Zabriskie, and Treva Jeffryes. Tom Robbins himself was the narrator.

In 2008, Seattle's Book-it Repertory Theatre adapted the novel for the stage.


  • John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, named a song and album after the novel.
  • The band Nightmare of You based the song "Thumbelina" on the book.
  • The band The Gaslight Anthem titled a song on their album "The '59 Sound" after the novel

Partial publication history

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was first published in 1976 by Houghton Mifflin. It was released as both a hardcover and paperback novel concurrently.

  • First hardcover edition: ISBN 0-395-24305-X, Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
  • First paperback edition: ISBN 0-395-24510-9, Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

External links


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