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

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  36 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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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
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
This short book is the autobiography of Catalina de Erauso, a woman who absconded from a nunnery at the age of fifteen, remade her underclothes into a suit of men's clothes, and embarked on a career as a soldier and adventurer in Peru and Chile.

Catalina's tone is matter-of-fact; this is a tale of what she did, not why she did it or how she felt about it. We don't get told why she fled from the nunnery, but - given the life she led afterwards - one concludes that it was purely a bid for the kind
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.
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.
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.
Rob Bliss
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
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
Nick Marsellas
This autobiography is overflowing with rich descriptions of the political tensions in the Spanish colonies, dual nationalism, and of course swashbuckling machismo. One of the main themes of the book is that of religious officials rescuing De Erauso from just punishment again and again. De Erauso is also aided by her identification as a Basque. She meets many other Basque colonists who come to her aid, fighting alongside her or providing her monetary assistance because of their shared identificat ...more
This short, action-packed memoir from the 1600s reads like fiction. Catalina, a.k.a. Antonio, lives by an honor code and doesn't hesitate to slay men who get in his way. He mostly refers to himself as a man (per the translator's note about the original Spanish) yet others are often aware that he is female-bodied. Born in Spain, he sails to South America and later winds up in Rome.
Initial reaction: this is an exhausting read.

While it is fast paced and reads like a fiction, the life of Catalina De Erauso is restless and always on the run, and that made my reading experience exhausting. Mainly it is because she does not describe her ventures in detail and we're only left with snippets of her journey. All in all, it was an ok read.
Read for Early Modern Women's Writing, Spring 2014.

Really interesting but not a memoir in the traditional sense (at least the way I think of them). It's pretty much just an account of Erauso's life, with little to no introspection or emotions about all of the events. Still, she had a pretty crazy life, which was fascinating to read about.
Sandra Park
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, "
interesting read. I feel like it might have been better in spanish, but alas I don't know spanish... Very interesting how clothing and actions were what she used to identify as male and portrayed how she thought men should/did act during that time.
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
I liked the preface more than the actual book. I understand the significance, though, and I think the story and the person behind the story are really cool. It just wasn't written in a way that kept me engaged.
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
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
Indigo Crayon
Read this for class.
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.
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.
Feb 19, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Karen Racine
Shelves: 2009, school
This book was a very quick read, and was entertaining in that while you are reading about the life of Catalina De Erauso, you forget that she was born a woman. I'm impressed that she was able to shake off all of the "sexing" that had been forced upon her since birth and able to so fully live the life of a man.
Used this in a gender history class, and it was a VERY effective way to analyze categories of gender, sex, sexual identity. A swashbuckling tale that I will definitely use again if teaching this class. The students loved it, and it sparked very energetic discussions.
A quick read but action packed...I wished there could have been more. A different translation can be found here:
Nan Hawthorne
Fascinating account of a cross dressing Basque woman who lived as a man, ladyfriends and all. Not a novel.. her memoirs. Just "I went there, did this, got chased out of town, went there, etc."
A very interesting story not so much because of the cross-dressing, but because the cross-dressing is for the most part devoid of sexual tension, but much more about power and status.
Nellie K.
Muy inverosimil que se puede vestir como hombre sin ser reconocida y sin que nadie sepa que es una mujer...
Sorqaqtani Beki
Lieutenant nun : memoir of a Basque transvestite in the New World by Catalina de Erauso (1996)
This book is hilarious and amazing. Catalina de Erauso has all my respect.
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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
More about Catalina de Erauso...
Historia De La Monja Alferez Escrita Por Vida I Sucesos De La Monja Alférez A Freira Alferes La Historia de La Monja Alferez (داستان‌های کوتاه امریکای لاتین (دورۀ یک‌جلدی

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