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Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  507 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
One of the earliest known autobiographies by a woman, this is the extraordinary tale of Catalina de Erauso, who in 1599 escaped from a Basque convent dressed as a man and went on to live one of the most wildly fantastic lives of any woman in history. A soldier in the Spanish army, she traveled to Peru and Chile, became a gambler, and even mistakenly killed her own brother ...more
ebook, 68 pages
Published February 7th 2011 by Beacon Press (first published 1630)
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(showing 1-30)
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While a woman dressing as a man is nothing new in the annals of history, reading this straighforward, picaresque autobiography is something fairly different. My Spanish bil confirmed for me that Catalina is indeed a Spanish (folk)hero. Reading of her exploits & adventures provided a fascinating glimpse into her life as a man in the new world, outlining her exploits as a gambler, soldier, and adventurer. Catalina got into enough scrapes that she often relied on the sanctuary of the Church for ...more
May 15, 2007 MM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Viva la Monja Alférez! This is the story of Catalina de Erauso, a 16th-17th Century "transvestite nun." It's her short autobiography -- first a nun in the Basque region of Spain in the late 1500s, she donned men's clothing and escaped. She passed as male in Spain, working here and there, and then left for colonial travels to South America (Peru mostly, and Chile). There she soldiered, dueled, killed, and adventured. She eventually confessed her transgressions and became legendary. Although the p ...more
Forse la recensione più efficace, stringata ma azzeccata, di questo libretto la scrive Jesús Munárriz già nelle primissime righe della sua Presentazione: “Non cercare in queste memorie, lettrice o lettore, le raffinatezze della letteratura, poiché mai fu questo il loro proposito. Scopri piuttosto in esse quel che d’insolito, avventuroso ed elettrizzante contengono, che non è poco”.

Storia della monaca alfiere scritta da lei medesima: questa autobiografia è opera di Catalina de Erauso, una giovane
Rob Bliss
May 06, 2013 Rob Bliss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating mainly because of the age it was written in. I mean the times, the barbarism, especially the European powers devasting the New World alone is incredible. So many things must have happened that never made the history books. How much of human history is actually lost? More than is known is my guess.

And fascinating because of who wrote this. If she did half of what she wrote she did, she lived more of a life than most people, and was incredibly lucky that she lived a full life. (After b
Sandra Park-Callaghan
my friend had found this book laying around in his apartment building's basement. picked it up and read it on a whim. thought it was interesting and sent it my way after he was done.

well, there is A LOT packed in that tiny book. fascinating story to say the least. not terribly well written and i wonder just how much was her story is embellished and well, factual. nonetheless, not terrible and a very, very quick read. oh, and the pacing of the story is most amusing to me. seriously, it's like, "
My goodness, what an interesting life! I suppose my only frustration is that De Erauso was writing a confession, not a memoir, and so I was left very hungry for more. Just how she was able to get through situations such as being stripped and nearly racked without being revealed as a woman is something I'd really like to know. This is very much a "Perils of Pauline" story, and quite an interesting look at 16th-century Latin America and the Spaniards who settled there.
Kimberly Ann
The story in & of itself is crazy, but the memoir is merely a record of that story. It's literally like reading a non-stop monologue of someone's wild-but-true story of her life as a man in a time when that was pretty much illegal/frowned upon/but she got away with it for pretty much her whole life so fascinating, only, really, because of that.
Feb 12, 2008 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title leaves out the best part: this is a transvestite lieutenant nun from the 1500s!! A true story swash buckling tranny who kills lots of people and is addicted to gambling and stealing her (his) brother's mistress. It's addicting, you'll finish it in a day.
Oct 17, 2008 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a class I am TAing--- it is actually quite dull, no emotion whatsover... it is basically a very long winded timeline.
Aug 31, 2015 Benjamin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
read it for a college class,
Feb 11, 2017 Lianne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I'm having a really hard time believing that this is a true memoir. It reads more like a piece of fiction. From escaping a nunnery dressed as a boy and then to go on to dress as a boy/man for the rest of her life while leaving Spain on a ship and traveling to South America and working as a cowboy, soldier and other such jobs seemed a bit far-fetched. Oh, and it took place in the early 1600's! The drinking, gambling, dueling, killing, etc. was over the top. There were several times when she was s ...more
Matthew Mole
Nov 02, 2016 Matthew Mole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All historical fencers need to read this book. It is an unvarnished account of the protagonists life and provides enlightening insights to the social attitudes of the time in Spain's South American colonies.
Michelle Risa
Read for my HIST 296 Women in World History course.
In explaining some of his more outlandish exploits; Sherlock Holmes was fond of saying that after eliminating all other possibilities, whatever remains, not matter how improbable, is the answer. Applying this logic to the equally outlandish and seemingly impossible life of Catalina de Erauso one can only assume that if everything in her autobiography is true; then she was gifted with miraculous good luck. Her autobiography, outlining her life-long masquerade, as man is either an amazing example ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Old timey memoirs were the best. No showing off how many books the author's read, just action, action, action. Catalina de Erauso was a 15 year old Spanish girl in a convent who, after being beaten by some of the nuns, sees a chance to escape and takes it. She disguises herself as a boy and takes on a clerical job, but after committing a couple murders, flees to the new world, where she becomes a solider and commits even more murders. I lost track of the bodies fairly quickly.

Details in this bo
Apr 27, 2013 Larissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in the original Spanish so I won't comment on the translation of this text. My Spanish lit professor had a penchant for picking the most remarkable tales for us to read. Seventeenth century Spanish can be brutal to a student. The reward was reading about a nun who cross dresses, escapes to the new world and becomes a conquistador. As a short man with a Napoleon complex willing to duel at any hint against his/her manhood, De Erauso succeeds in convincing the other men that he/she is a ...more
Carlos Ortiz
Apr 05, 2015 Carlos Ortiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Catalina de Erauso’s journal tells the fascinating story of her life as a nun turned military and her incredible adventures in South America during colonial times. The single fact that she lived as a man among soldiers in those times is in itself an amazing story.

The foreword by Marjorie Garber gives interesting details about those colonial times when royalty and the priesthood ruled. Garber ponder’s about Catalina de Erauso’s psyche and sexual identity, being careful not to interpret the lieut
May 24, 2016 Mishya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This autobiography about lieutenant nun is captivating and well translated. In her life story she meets countless obstacles, yet talks about them in a tone that states more towards well this just happened and well I got through it. Her story hits upon gender identity, for there comes a point when you stop thinking of her as a he or a she, but really just as lieutenant nun.
What is also nice about this book is that she is not a saint. She gambles, fights, and even kills. She also does not seek t
Moses Hetfield
Definitely worth a read even though I only rated it three stars. Lieutenant Nun is the true story (a memoir) of a nun in 17th century Spain who runs away from the convent dressed as a man, sails to the Americas, and has all kinds of swashbuckling adventures as a businessman and soldier, all the while maintaining the disguise. It's worth a read because it's an incredible story, and it's quite short (I finished it in one afternoon). Besides the fact that the protagonist was originally a female nun ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catalina herself gives the best summary of her memoir: "I left the convent for such and such a reason, went to such and such a place, undressed myself and dressed myself up again, cut my hair, traveled here and there, embarked, disembarked, hustled, killed, maimed, wreaked havoc, and roamed about, until coming to a stop in this very instant, at the feet of Your Eminence."

Totally weird and fascinating. Worth comparing to de las Casas's Devastation of the Indies since Catalina is an accomplished
Tom Schulte
May 01, 2016 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief and fascinating account, via court ordered autobiography (One of the earliest known by a woman) of Catalina de Erauso. This early 17th Century Basque adventurer and free spirit escaped from a convent dressed as a man and went on to live as a New World soldier in the Spanish army, gambler, and mistakenly killed her brother in a duel. After her truth being discovered, she became famous in Spanish-speaking world. This very natural translation of her audacious escapades includes a helpful, c ...more
"...when I was about to profess my final vows, I left the convent for such and such reason, went to such and such a place, undressed myself and dressed myself up again, cut my hair, traveled here and there, embarked, disembarked, hustled, killed, maimed, wrecked havoc, and roamed about until coming to a stop in this very instant at the feet of Your Eminence."

I don't think I've ever been so jealous of another woman's life. Catalina's story is engaging and hilarious not because she was a woman in
A quick, short read about a contradictory figure. It's interesting to note how Catalina de Erauso is proud to call herself a Spaniard but also quick to differentiate herself as a "Basquero" as well, and points out the numerous times she gets in a scrape with the law and is assisted by fellow Basques against other Spaniards. Also interesting to note are her attitudes toward other women, she is quite often condescending with regard to them, and seems to more align her attitudes with those of the m ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for a college class. Although it's a fascinating tale, Catalina is clearly a cold-blooded sociopath, or at least that is how she portrays herself. She has no problem with stabbing someone in the face for the most minor slight to her honor. She's pretty bad ass, surviving some harsh conditions, though pretty much the entire time I'm reading the book I'm wondering how, given all the times she finds herself naked by being wounded or put on the rack or robbed, NO ONE ever not ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school, 2016
This is a diary written in the seventeenth-century by a badass. A badass nun. A badass nun who kills, like, fifty people. Who kills, like, fifty people while dressed up as a man. I wish this went in to gender identity specifics, as it's unclear if de Erauso is a transgender man or a cross-dressing woman. Not that gender identity needs to be public, just that the concept was pretty confusing. As well, some self-reflection on one's actions would have been nice, but it reads more as a biography rat ...more
Nov 16, 2010 Tuck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
after she escapes the convent in san sebastian...."I shook off my veil and went out into a street i had never seen, without any idea which way to turn, or where i might be going. I struck out...and came upon a chestnut grove.....There i holed up for three days...cutting myself out a [man's] suit of clothes."
ultimately this book is too academic for most readers, but you do get some insight into how a woman could pass as a man in conquistador times. but on so many fronts this is not a good time t
Jan 18, 2012 Ferris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My daughter read this book during a college curse dedicated to the study of "Don Quixote". This and some other novellas were companion reads, examples of the "picaresque" novel. The difference in the case of this novella is that Lieutenant Nun really existed, and he was really a she disguised and living as a man. This autobiography from the early 1600s is somewhat difficult to believe, yet she really did exist and apparently was the subject of beloved folklore in Peru and Spain. Go figure! It wa ...more
I read this book for a class at school. I had to write a book review for it. The main premise of the paper is that this is not a true and faithful narrative. It was an embellished story when Catalina dictated it, and it was changed through the years as translations and rewritings made it into the book it is today. This is not an autobiography. At best, it is a fictional story based on the life of Catalina de Erauso.
LeeAnn Heringer
The lives of European "civilized" women in the age of exploration were so limited. You were somebody's wife, you were somebody's whore, you were a nun. You were property to be negotiated for. And yet this woman, Catalina De Erauso, threw off her nun's veil, sewed her habit into a pairs of pants and a vest, and ran off to a life of adventure in the New World. I'd like to think I could have been half as brave and unconventional as she was, that I would have met life with that kind of esprit.
Apr 25, 2011 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
The full title of my copy of this book is "Lieutenant Nun: Transvestite in the New World" and, true to its word, it's the autobiography of a cross-dressing female adventurer in Peru in the early 17th century. The memoir itself is only about 80 pages, but barely a page goes by without a duel, a seduction, an escape, or an arrest. It's all apparently true but you'll be left wondering how the lieutenant nun kept her secret in all the beds, jails, and barracks she visits.
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From the introduction to Lieutenant Nun by translator Michele Stepto: "She gives 1585 as the year of her birth, though records in San Sebastian indicate she was baptized in 1592. * * * Sometime between 1626 and 1630 -- that is, between the visit to Naples, which concludes her memoir, and her return to the Americas--she wrote down in manuscript or dictated to an amanuensis an account of her life. * ...more
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