Heather's Reviews > Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
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Apr 10, 2010

it was amazing

I only recently discovered GoodReads (I know, it's like I've been living under a rock!), and I've been reading lots of their lists. It occurred to me that perhaps as a good lesbian I should try reading more gay fiction. I've read some, of course (including Stone Butch Blues, which I shared a little bit about in my last Top Ten Post) But really, if I don't want to have to give back my toaster oven I should have a passing knowledge of important works in the GLBT genre.


With that in mind I ordered Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson. It is really a roman a clef of the author's early years in Northern England. The main character, Jeanette, is the adopted daughter of a fundamentalist Christian couple. Her mother adopted her in order to raise her up to give to the Lord as a missionary for His cause. From early days, however, Jeanette shows that she is her own person and will not be forced into someone else's ideas about what she should be. As she grows up, she becomes more and more rebellious-and she falls in love. With a GIRL! Let's just say that her relationship with her mother really starts to go downhill after the failed exorcism...that's right, they tried to exorcise the gay right out of her!


Winterson has a dry, witty sense of humor that makes what could be a tragic story of betrayal and loss into something altogether more powerful. At not one point in the story did Jeanette doubt that God meant her to be the way she was. The people in her church loved her, thought she had a calling to preaching and missionary work-until they found out she was gay. Suddenly, the leadership decided that maybe women were getting above their true place in the church, and should no longer be allowed to preach. Apparently Jeanette's love for Katy convinced them that she was trying to be a man. But not once did Jeanette waver in her belief that what she was and how she felt was as natural as loving the Lord, which she did with fervor. Usually reading about religious fundamentalists makes me a little twitchy, but Winterson handled them in such a way that while I completely disagree with almost everything about the way they view life and God, I couldn't help but accept and respect their humanity. Jeanette says, at one point in the book, that she loved the Lord-it was some of his followers that she had problems with. She eventually finds her way out of the insular world she was raised in, first through her prodigious imagination, and finally by physically moving to the big city. But she can't completely leave behind her mother and her religious fervor. The book concludes with Jeanette going home for Christmas to find her mother perched by the ham radio, networking with other born-again Christians for prayer, support, and most of all the conversion of the rest of us Godless souls. Despite the new life Jeanette has found for herself, it is almost like she is comforted somehow by the idea that while she is off in the world, her mother stays behind, fighting other people's demons one prayer request at a time. I guess this is probably true of all of us. No matter how much we may try to separate ourselves from where we come from, the fact remains that we carry those people and experiences around with us into every new town, new job, or new relationship that we have.
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