Rita Mae Brown is a prolific American writer, most known for her mysteries and other novels (Rubyfruit Jungle). She is also an Emmy-nominated screenwriter.
Brown was born illegitimate in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her biological mother's female cousin and the cousin's husband in York, Pennsylvania and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Starting in the fall of 1962, Brown attended the University of Florida at Gainesville on a scholarship. In the spring of 1964, the administrators of the racially segregated university expelled her for participating in the civil rights movement. She subsequently enrolled at Broward Community College with the hope of transferring eventually to a more tolerant four-year institution.
Between fall 1964 and 1969, she lived in New York City, sometimes homeless, while attending New York University where she received a degree in Classics and English. Later,[when?] she received another degree in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts. Brown received a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University in 1976 and holds a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.
Starting in 1973, Brown lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. In 1977, she bought a farm in Charlottesville, Virginia where she still lives. In 1982, a screenplay Brown wrote while living in Los Angeles, Sleepless Nights, was retitled The Slumber Party Massacre and given a limited release theatrically.
During Brown's spring 1964 semester at the University of Florida at Gainesville, she became active in the American Civil Rights Movement. Later in the 1960s, she participated in the anti-war movement, the feminist movement and the Gay Liberation movement.
Brown took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but resigned in January 1970 over Betty Friedan's anti-gay remarks and NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations. She claims she played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on May 1, 1970, which protested Friedan's remarks and the exclusion of lesbians from the women's movement.
In the early 1970s, she became a founding member of The Furies Collective, a lesbian feminist newspaper collective in Washington, DC, which held that heterosexuality was the root of all oppression.
Brown told Time magazine in 2008, "I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became [in the late 1970s] the only lesbian in America."
I read this book the year it was published. I was a young woman of 21, and it was during a time when it was still considered shocking, by most of mainstream straight America,to be gay. My sister had recently come out to me, and my head was spinning. We were very close, and she was much older. Her "roommate" of many years was not just a roommate any more. I wasn't sure what to think or feel. In short, I was confused as hell.
This book was a good antidote. Hilariously written, human, sexual, occasionally profane: it's hard to be a homophobe when you're laughing that hard.
Later that year,while Anita Bryant was still trying to "save our children" by getting gays and lesbians banned from any job involving children on the no-facts-involved notion that they would molest them, I went to my first Pride march in my sister's place. (She was a pediatric nurse, and terrified lest she lose her position; she is retired now). Our mother turned on the evening news to see a close-up of a very young version of me, clad in a halter top and carrying a sign, chanting "Three, five, seven, nine, lesbians are MIGHTY FINE!"
Things are different now, and more people are probably open to reading a book like this, even when there are no humming-wire family issues involved. It did me a world of good. If you are lesbian, are in favor of gay rights but aren't sure if you are comfortable about actual lesbians--a lot of people have told me this over the years: 'it's a private matter, but I don't want to hear about it'-- or if you are not easily offended and just want to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, get this book. Read it now.
i swear i already wrote a review of this book but maybe not.
okay, so you're young, you've suddenly realized you're a lesbian. one out of every two people you talk to in the next year are going to recommend rubyfruit jungle. it is THE coming out book. i wonder if gay men have an equivalent. anyway. personally, i think this book is overhyped. let's remember that this is the same lady who writes murder mysteries with her CAT. that's right, not about her cat, but with her cat. co-authored. i mean, i love cats and all, but... anyway. poor southern lesbian comes out, runs around, hijinks ensue. personally, i would sneak into your room at night and replace this book with a dorothy allison book. i think you would thank me.
sigh. but yes, i suppose, it's a valid part of the process. we can't just dismiss ms. brown on account of she's a crazy cat lady. and she did get a bar named after the book, so that's gotta count for something.
I really debated whether to give this one or two stars because my intense negative reaction to the book doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't written decently.
However, I definitely can't award it anything higher than a two because it was awful in many ways. Here's a list in no particular order why I dislike this novel:
1. Putting down butch lesbians by basically saying there's no point to them (Molly says she might as well be with a man) and also implying from the few she met that they are stupid and ugly.
2. Ageism. Granted, Molly does sleep with Polina towards the end but she puts down older lesbians frequently prior to that.
3. Rape. Molly is pissed at Polina (who is being judgmental for sure, but still doesn't condone the above action) and forces her to kiss her and then restrains her on the bed. Molly even admits she "half-forced" her into this encounter and dismisses Polina's objections by insisting she likes it, even if she initially acts like she hates it. If a dude did this in a novel I would be just as squicked out right now. It is never okay to force someone to have sex with you, I don't care how they're acting.
4. Approval of incest, with emphasis on parent and child. Later, when Molly is now sleeping with Polina's daughter, Alice, she says that she knows her mother wants to sleep with her but is too "repressed" to do so. What follows is Alice saying she doesn't think incest is that big of a trauma to which Molly replies that she doesn't understand why "parents and children put each other in these de-sexed categories. (It's) Anti-human, I think." As if that isn't disgusting enough on its own, she tries to cover her ass by by adding that incest is only okay when both parties are consenting and over fifteen.
I guess the author thought herself very enlightened by suggesting incest is no big deal as long as everyone is onboard but I found that entire section disturbing as hell. Being a victim of incest myself I can only assume the author a) never had any experience with incest personally or b) did, but is so fucked up as a result that she thinks it permissible for parent and child to have sex together. I'll be the first to say that incest is a big deal and was very traumatic to me. I realize not everyone feels the same, but I think it's irresponsible and horrid to suggest that not having sex with relatives is somehow anti-human. So fuck you very much, Rita Mae Brown.
You know what? On second thought, I give this book one star. There is nothing within it that's redeemable enough to pardon the things above.
Fast moving and dynamic, Rubyfruit Jungle vividly sketches the coming of age of a lesbian in postwar America. The autobiographical novel follows Molly Brown, the adopted daughter of a destitute family, as she grows up in Florida struggling with her sexuality and later as she runs away to New York to pursue a career as a filmmaker and a life among other lesbians. The dialogue-heavy novel resembles a screenplay, and its episodic plot is compulsively readable; the story’s powerfully bookended by Molly’s reflections on her vexed relationship with her mother, who routinely disowned her during her youth. The ending’s neat and the characterization simple, but the novel’s alternately lively and moving.
I read this book by accident. Literally and metaphorically, as was trapped in a foreign hospital without anything to read. After pleading with anyone who'd listen (in bad German), one of the nurses said she had one English book at home and this is what she brought me.
By the look of the 70s cover and dreadful blurb making it out to be some sort of erotic lesbo fiction, it didn't look like the sort of book I'd choose for company over Christmas. It just shows you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. And after the stomach-churning schmaltz of 'Miracle on Regent Street' it was read cover to cover at lightening speed.
Intelligently written, coming of age story with a very likeable main character, Molly, who never accepts an answer or will be told what to do, and kicks against all her disadvantages and the bigotry facing her. It was funny too - the description of the children's nativity play in the local school is priceless.
Not sure why I've never come across this author before - may be worth investigating her back catalogue based on this one. As, apparently it was a bestseller when first published.
Seeing as I've been dating women for awhile, I figured I'd finally read this classic of lesbo lit. My review in one word, "eh. . ."
I mean, Brown's got a great handle on a fierce character, and there are streaks of beauty in this jammed story, but the main problem it has more ego than Ayn Rand (whom I love, btw). Rae's main character, Molly, is strong willed, defiant, and brutally brilliant against her slow as molasses thinkin' counterparts and family members. I'm one for a hard headed, knows what she wants type-a woman, but there is no fault in Molly. Brown heaps undulating audiences who are speared by Molly's wit on every side. You can only assume that Molly is a thinly veiled autobiographical character, but this is where her defiant "I'm smarter than 'em all" characteristic bleeds into the writing, which is as undulant and as flawed as her main character. Brown's character is not human, she's the super-human Sapphic wish on steroids, she's all spear and no handle, and in all honesty, it just feels like you're reading the story of someone telling you how great they are at all times. There is little nuance, little moments of understanding and in truth, little sense of a full character. Molly's a one-dimensional savior to all those Lesbo, and if you're Lesbo yourself, or just discovering that you have an inner Lesbo and need to nurture it, by all means, take Rubyfruit Jungle out and have a field day. Still, it's a quick read, and definitely has it's place in the cannon of both feminist and gay lit, so take a read if you're into that. As for Brown though, I simply wished she had a better editor. She possible did, and then fired her, though.
After Six of One, my favorite of lesbian legend among women Rita Mae Brown's witty, delightful books. The fact that the young woman protagonist is a film student, and the film that she's shown to have made, kept me riveted to the page. (I dated a lot of film students in 1970s Austin.) The fact that not a lot of women went to film school, at least not that I saw at their sausage fests, made the fiery transgressiveness of the whole tale all the more exciting. Break every boundary, ignore every norm, he hummed to the Sound of Music tune.
I'm seriously reconsidering this Fallback Friday idea. If the old books are all like this one, I don't think I'll be able to handle it.
This book was a flat out mess. I'm sitting here so angry after reading it.
I did not like Molly Bolt. Not even a little bit.
This story follows Molly Bolt from when she was 11 all the way until her mid twenties. We read her life in sectioned off parts. Her childhood, her junior high/high school, and young adult college time frames. She was a detestable brat throughout it all.
I think I'm supposed to think that Molly was brave and ahead of her time. There is probably supposed to be a lesson in this story about being yourself and not conforming to what others expect or think of you. Maybe I'm even supposed to be swayed to think that we aren't meant for monogamy and we should all explore free love.
I read someplace that this book kind of made the author her the only lesbian in that era. And that just saddens me. Because if everyone read this drivel, then it is no wonder why people have untoward ideas about homosexuals. The entire book romanticizes infidelity and promiscuity. Molly diddles and sexes with anybody she comes in contact with. Without any type of emotional connection whatsoever. Completely disconnected. And we are supposed to believe that she would turn down some rich woman archaeologist that would fund the only thing important to her? Sure thing. The worst part was when Molly declares that she is pretty much OK with incest!
I know Rita Mae Brown could not have been going for any type of positive representation with this book. It felt more like she was going for shock factor. Well done. Because this was well and truly shocking to me.
I wish we could have had a more positive lesbian role model protagonist in the early best selling lesbian novel. Maybe we wouldn't have had to undo so many negative stereotypes along the way.
And for the record, this does not stand up over time. At all. I didn't understand a multitude of references to politicians, artists, actors, etc. There was some slang I've never heard in my life. It had openly racist and homophobic dialogue. Generalized bigotry that was prevalent back then.
It always amazes me how much you can gain even from the smallest book— if it is written right. I am not exactly predestined to make profound statements here. Compared to the main character I have the wrong sex and am in the wrong age. I also live in the wrong country, at the wrong time, and was not brought up by foster parents. Over and above I’m heterosexual. So what attracts me to Molly Bolt so much? Why can I identify with her? I guess it’s her individuality, her unique character, the swimming against the tide, her fighting the odds which were against her from the very start. And it is the profoundly moral and, ultimately, human core she owns, that is hidden under the sometimes harsh profanity, the various sexual encounters, even in the struggles with her adoptive mother. And this, the core of a moral human being, has nothing to do with gender, age, place or time. And certainly not with one’s sexual orientation.
yazıldığı dönemi düşününce hayli iyi bir kitap. "yazıldığı dönemi düşününce" kısmı oldukça kritik yalnız.
ben normalde bir kitabı bitirince yorum yazmadan evvel başkaları ne demiş, ne düşünmüş pek okumam; etkilenmemek için. doğrudan kendim ne düşündüysem onu anlatır sonra diğer yorumlara bakarım. bu sefer önce -özellikle yabancı- yorumları okudum çünkü cinsiyet ve cinsel yönelim konuları her geçen gün üzerine düşünmemiz gereken şeyler konusunda güncellenen içeriğe sahip. açıkçası ben de bu konularda çok bilirkişi olmadığımdan öğrenerek okudum bunları. güncel bakış açısıyla yapılan bu eleştirilere hak vermekle birlikte, dediğim gibi, yazıldığı dönem çerçevesinde değerlendirmek gerektiğini düşünüyorum; ve kendin olmakla, kendini sevmekle, toplumun beklentilerine boyun eğmemekle, onurlu yaşamayı zorluklarına rağmen tercih etmekle ilgili anlatısını çok değerli buluyorum. zamanında neden bu kadar sevilmiş, anlamak hiç güç değil.
iki eleştirim var, biri editoryal: içinde iki yüklem olan cümlelerde virgül eksikliği mevcut, kitabın geneline yayılmış bir eksiklik ve de bu. mesela sayfa 55'in son paragrafında "bunu yapabileceğimi biliyordu hele bir de yanımızda dikenli otlar varken kavgayı göze alamadığı için birkaç adım geri gitti." cümlesinde biliyordu'dan sonra illa bir virgül istiyor. belki aslı böyledir, ama kitabın böyle bir noktalama özelinde kural bozacak kadar dil oyunu yapan bir anlatımı da yok. açıkçası aslını kontrol etmeye de üşendim. :) ama insan kendi yazarken kafasında sesli bir cümle olduğu için böyle virgülleri atlasa da ben okur olarak bunun eksikliğinde adeta tökezliyorum, hele böyle yağ gibi akan bir metinde iyice tökezletiyor. umami'nin yaptığı şeyi çok değerli bulduğumdan söylemeden edemedim, umarım pozitif eleştiri olarak alırlar, eğer buraya kadar okurlarsa. :)
diğer eleştirim içerikle ilgili. ensestle ilgili diyalog beni aştı maalesef. eski kafalı bulanlar olabilir, olsun, benim de sınırım burasıymış demek ki derim ama keşke iki karakter de bu konuda hemfikir olacağına biraz daha zıt düşünselerdi bu konuda.
neyse, özetle, her konuda klasiklerin damardan verildiği edebiyat dünyasında queer klasikler konusunda cahil olmak beni bir miktar üzüyordu. artık o kadar zır cahil değilim, az cahilim. teşekkürler umami.
I was quite disappointed in this. It was the first lesbian classic that I didn't love. First of all she didn't end up "happy". She was alone and had a qualification in an industry which was too sexist to let her get a job in her field. That's not a happy ending. The thing that I love best about the old pulps are that they are so breathtakingly and heartbreakingly honest. The emotions in them are so raw. This just felt cold and artificial. She moved from one stage of her life to the other and nothing affected her. She started very poor, as a tomboy but then got amazing grades and became popular simply cause she was smart. Being smart is not enough to get you fantastic grades, your envirnoment and social standing has a huge effect on you. She seemed to be miserable one day, then outstanding the next, and then willing to throw it all away, to declare she was a lesbian, when she knew what the reaction would be. Likewise the part where she was homeless for a couple days felt equally false, she found someone got a deposit and then magically got a scholarship and a good job without a thought. She also never seemed to care about any of the women she slept with. Her definition for being a lesbian seemed to be that she enjoyed sex with women more than she did sex with men, (though a lot of the sex with either gender was unsatisfactory to her). But she never seemed to fall in love or actually care about anyone. The resolution with her mother felt false as well. The woman had been emotionally abusive her whole life and then it was ok just cause she was her mother? Er no, even if you are someone's mom you still need to treat them with respect. I can't recommend this at all, read Ann Bannon, Stone Butch Blues, Radclyffe Hall, pretty much anything else instead.
Feminist edebiyatın klasikleriden birisi Yakut Orman. Bu da kitaba yüklenen anlamların ve beklentilerinin yönünü değiştirmesine ve insanların kitapla ilgili ikiye ayrılmasına sebep oluyor. İlk yayınlandığı 1973 yılında queer bireylerde büyük bir destek aracı olduğu ve bir çoğunun da ailesine ve de topluma açılmasında kilit rol oynadığı biliniyor. Günümüzde de halen aynı etkiyi bulmak isteyen okurları var ancak dönemin politik doğruculuğu ve bazı tetiklenme hassasiyetleri göze alındığında mutsuz olacaklardır. Zira Rita Mae Brown bu kitapta size sarılıp teselli etmeyi vaadetmiyor. Aksine doğrusuyla ve yanlışlarıyla sıradan bir insan olarak, kendi hikayesinin izlerini paylaşıyor. Bence bu kitabı bu kadar güzel yapan da bu. Önyargılarıyla, hatalarıyla düşünceleriyle tamamen dürüst, bazı noktalardaki toksik yönünü dahi sansürlemeden bütün dürüstlüğü ile açılmış olması. Zira genel kuralların dışında durmanız, sizin bir insan olduğunuz gerçeğini değiştirmiyor.
Kitap zaten kendi hikayesinden yola çıktığı için özel ve sürprizli bir kurguya sahip değil. Zaten buna ihtiyacı da yok bence. Hem hayatı hem de anlatmak istedikleri o kadar güçlü ki bunun eksikliğini hissetmeden, elinizden bırakamadan okuyorsunuz. Kadınlığın dahi kabul görmediği pek çok alanda bir lezbiyen olarak; toplumda kadının yeri, cinsiyet rolleri ve ahlak kavramı ile savaşıyor. Bunu yaparken de yaşarken de iyi birisi olmak gibi bir kaygısı yok. Tek amacı her kimse o olmak ve değişmeden mutlu olmak. Ben çok severek okudum. Ayrıca çevirmenin dipnotlarındaki detaylara ayrıca bayıldım.
Tatiana is not being fair. RMB wrote this book reasonably early in her career, 30 years ago. The humor of the time was different, the references were different, shock value was different, risque was different. At the time it was shockingly welcome. It is still today a very joyful, affirming book for gay, straight, adopted, natural, or just unique. RMB is older and mellower now (see cat mysteries!) but this is an important, albeit fictionalized, documentation of her thoughts and development at a very important and defining time in her life. Read it again and think young with sharp egdes-
Rubinroter Dschungel war Rita Mae Browns Debüt und gleichzeitig wahrscheinlich auch ihr bestes Buch. Es ist eine Coming of Age und Coming Out Geschichte, die in den USA in den 1950er und 60er Jahren spielt. Eine junge Frau macht ihre ersten gleichgeschlechtlichen sexuellen Erfahrungen, stößt dabei auf viel Ablehnung in ihrer Familie und bei ihren Freunden und versucht gleichzeitig, sich in einer von Männern dominierten Welt zu behaupten. Das Buch stellt ein recht gutes Sittengemälde der damaligen Zeit dar, das an einigen Stellen auch immer noch aktuell sein dürfte. Es gibt auch kein erzwungenes Happyend und keinen Kitsch. Stilistisch ist das Buch recht einfach und lässt sich schnell lesen. Ich empfehle allerdings das englische Original. Die deutsche Übersetzung ist meiner Meinung nach nicht besonders gelungen und bei einigen Formulierungen hat sich mir ganz schön der Magen verkrampft.
This is a book about resilience and overcoming adversity while everybody around you is betting on your failure. I'm glad I picked it up this Pride Month and I wish it kept on for a little while longer. And although times may have changed a lot, Rubyfruit Jungle is still just as resonant and relevant today as it ever was and will remain a staple in LGBTQ literature for years to come.
One of the few books regarded as a "classic" of lesbian literature, Ruby Fruit Jungle bothered me. What begins as a not-too-bad lesbian coming of age story evolves into an anti-heterosexual, anti-motherhood manefesto. The plot and the writing suffer as a result, and my own disagreement with the message prevents me from enjoying the book.
I was able to find solace in regarding the book as something of a historical relac - a museum piece of sorts that illustrates well a particular philosophical era in the gay rights movement. I think we should read this book in much the same way we read "The White Man's Burden": as a piece of literature that contributes to our understanding of the thinking of the day.
As always, you may also find this review on the blog.
Rubyfruit Jungle was selected by Ceri from Bookmarks and Postcards as part of my running feature, You Choose, I Read. As soon as I read the short, sweet synopsis and skimmed a few reviews, I knew this was kismet. I cannot honestly say how this book has flown under my radar for so long. I am almost ashamed of this fact. But thanks to Ceri, we have been rightfully united. I love this book!
This is a fictional biography of sorts following the life of Molly Bolt from young adolescence into adulthood. Molly realizes at a young age that she is attracted to women and is brilliantly unapologetic for this. Determined to pave her way and set her own rules in a world “run” by men with very narrow views on sexuality, she sets out on a driven but often hard path of self-discovery to obtain her own goals and desires.
“All this overt heterosexuality amused me. If only they knew.”
What I appreciated..
Molly is beautifully, shamelessly unapologetic about who she is, all that she feels and her own desires. She embodies the traits I love and seek out not only in protagonists but in humans. She simply is and embraces herself. Rubyfruit Jungle presents multiple, often still (sadly) relevant themes addressing misconceptions, challenges, and the labeling that the LGBTQ+ community faces as well as being a woman and/or queer in a misogynistic & racist society and even explores adoption. This book covers so much! Rita Mae Brown’s writing is colorful, bold and raw. She creates a story that while entertaining is significantly something much more. She intelligently explores the uncomfortable with a sense of wit and humor that will make her story more accessible to audiences. The linear narrative provides a steady, solid character development that facilitates an effortless reading experience. Rubyfruit Jungle offers a sense of relatability and hope that I admired and benefited from on a personal level. I felt stronger and better for having completed its pages.
“I wished I could get up in the morning and look at the day the way I used to when I was a child. I wished I could walk down the streets and not hear those constant, abrasive sounds from the mouths of the opposite sex. Damn, I wished the world would let me be myself.”
Challenges some may enounter..
There is one particular relationship I found to be problematic and I feel other readers will as well. There are moments Rita Mae’s writing can easily be described as vulgar and graphic. Please expect to encounter sexual content, derogatory language and other possibly uncomfortable topics pertinent to the themes contained within. (As always, if you have any questions before approaching it feel free to message or email me.)
“The most revolutionary thing you can do is to be yourself, to speak your truth, to open your arms to life including the pain. Passion. Find your passions.
Rubyfruit Jungle is brazen and bold. Written during the 70s, it surely should have taken the world by storm! It is a charming and daring coming of age story with a rewarding and spirited protagonist that I am not likely to forget. It has effortlessly earned a spot among my favorites.
☕Pair Molly’s energetic, feisty attitude with your favorite chai or spiced blend.☕
This was kind of a strange book? Also the plot is a bit nonexistent. If anything, Rubyfruit Jungle is a character study more than a plot-based novel. Sure our main character, Molly, goes through life, but the action doesn't ever culminate in something that really felt like an ending. Molly's story was not complete and left off on a pretty hopeless note.
There was a lot of this book that I enjoyed. The humor fell short for me on more than one occasion though. I liked seeing Molly's journey to meeting other women, but some of her relationships were problematic. The book also commits bi-erasure to a degree which was a bit uncomfortable. Molly seems to conveniently run into an awful lot of lesbians throughout this book. It felt rather forced that every time she meets a girl, they pretty much fall in love. But if that's how it was, then that's how it was.
A classic in lgbtqia+ literature that though enjoyable wasn’t overall my cup of tea.
We follow our protagonist Molly throughout her life, starting as a toddler. We watch her brazenly accept herself and defy all social conventions.
Molly seems to be able to seduce and meet every non-straight woman within a 50 mile radius and just happen into a situation that makes her life a little bit better but never above being better than anyone else!! This cycle was repeated over and over again.
It was a little too idealistic for my taste, though there were some characters that put up some resistance.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown was originally published in 1973 a time of turmoil and prejudice for the LGBT community, particularly for lesbians. Since then we have seen progress and acceptance. However, we still face many of the issues that the novel’s main character, Molly faces.
Molly is adopted and raised by a mother that verbally and physically abuses. Her father is loving and supportive but absent as he needs to support the family. He confronts Molly’s mother but does not do enough to stop the abuse. Molly grows up and has a couple of relationships with women before going to college where she has another relationship with a woman that ends up getting her kicked out. She hitchhikes or New York City where she goes to film school and has a job at a magazine. She has a couple more relationships that both don’t end well. Throughout the novel Molly explores her own sexuality and community. It is these explorations and her character’s journey that are the main body of the story but also the book’s failure in several regards listed below:
1. The butchphobia
This novel is considered a classic in lesbian literature and yet it takes the time to stop the plot to insult butch lesbians. Molly has just arrived in New York City when a friend takes her to a gay bar where another lesbian asks if she is butch or femme. Molly says she is butch and when the other lesbian leaves proceeds to insult butch lesbians comparing to them men, saying, “‘What’s the point of being a lesbian if a woman is going to look and act like an imitation man? Hell, if I want a man, I’ll get the real thing not one of these chippies.’”
This could be attributed to the fact that Molly has never had experiences with lesbian culture before and approaches it the way her homophobic family and friends would, because that is all she knew. However, this insult goes unexamined and Molly never changes her opinion on it. She never gets to really know any butch lesbians or try to understand the culture built around butch and femme identities.
2. The incest
The incest was what made me almost give up on this twice. The first time I was only a third into it, I think, and I had to read a bit more for the class this book was assigned. After that assignment, I kept reading, and came upon another instance of it, though this time it was figurative. First, Molly sleeps with her cousin. Now, I know people are going to defend this by saying she’s adopted. I have two cousins whose mother is adopted. They are as much my cousins as the ones who I am biologically related to. Adopted family is family no matter what. Molly has grown up with Leroy to the point where they could even be considered brother and sister in their relationship. When they first start exploring their sexuality they start making out in the woods along with another girl. Then after a conversation where both hint at being attracted to the same gender, they decide to have sex. They continue to have sex for a long time.
The second and more figurative instance of incest is after Molly has moved to New York. She has a relationship with an older woman who had a daughter that is Molly’s age. Molly and the daughter have a relationship behind the older woman’s back. At one point the daughter says her mother wants to sleep with her. She says, “‘she won’t admit it but I know she does. I think I’d like to sleep with her. She’s very good looking, you know. Too bad it was freak her outl Incest doesn’t seem like such a trauma to me.”
The daughter claims her mother wants to have sex with her and she says she wants to have sex with her mother. Molly’s response is to tell her she doesn’t think incest is bad is both parts are over the age of fifteen and consenting. She does tell the girl not to sleep with her mother, but only because her mother has weird, sexual fantasies. Yeah. There are a number of reasons incest is taboo, but honestly, I don’t think we should have examine it beyond: No. Absolutely not. Do not go there. Not okay. No.
Also, it should go without saying that the mention of trauma by incest is completely offensive to victims of such abuse in this context.
3. The rape that isn’t called rape
This is the worst part of the novel. The older woman, Polina, that Molly has a relationship with begins with what would and should be considered rape. Molly forces the older woman into a kiss and then when Polina is upset Molly says, “ ‘If I had asked you, you wouldn’t have kissed me.’” That in of itself should be an indication that you should not kiss someone. The scene continues as Molly keeps forcing Polina into sexual advances and Polina trying to fight her off. Eventually, after Molly argues against Polina’s verbal protests, she forces Polina onto the bed and forces her to have sex. The scene is written in a way that is supposed to say that Polina is actually enjoying this and wants it. She is written to eventually encourage what Molly is doing to her. The reader is supposed to believe this is fine. But, it’s not fine. Nothing about this scene is fine. The novel treats this assault as if it is just the older woman refusing to admit she is attracted to woman. Molly forcing this woman to have sex with her is treated as something that is okay, good even, simply because this woman doesn’t know that she wants women. Molly’s actions are never judged as what they are – wrong.
4. The Mary/Molly Stu
Above all else a common theme in everything listed above is that Molly never learns anything from any of it. She never learns to accept and understand butch culture. She never understands that forcing someone to have sex with you is wrong, very wrong, so wrong. She never learns that incest is wrong no matter how free-spirited you think you are. That ‘consensual’ incest, especially between a parent and a child, is nonexistent. Molly never has to learn new things or develop her character. She always says the right thing and the cleverest quip. She’s ridiculously confident and self-assured. This is because of how the book frames her. The novel is not about her development, and it clearly never set out to be that. I can’t help but wonder if this is a self-insert for the author who was trying to work through these issues by writing this. Or perhaps preach her own opinions and ideas in a place where they won’t be examined for what they are.
This book is 45 years old. In the years since, lesbian literature has had many new stories and authors come in to fill the void that was created by a heteronormative society. It is because of this that it is hard reading a novel that is so backwards and harmful. As important as it is to remember our history, I would not suggest reading this for entertainment or enjoyment. If you want to have read an important part of the history lesbian literature, I won’t tell you not to. However, I will suggest you read Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, which gives much more acceptance and thorough history to lesbian history and culture.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I can't say it's exactly to my tastes, but I quickly found it impossible not to give in to Molly Bolt's unflagging exuberance as she strides through her whirlwind life with gusto and verve, inevitably encountering a lot of people along the way. Many of these characters quickly become hung up on who Molly is, where she came from, what she stands for, and, more often than not, are bewildered by the very potent sexual effect she has on them. Molly, ever disappointed but nonplussed by the reactionary attitudes she inevitably encounters, in turn unveils how the moral and social values of these figures—and by extension society itself—is a confused and contradictory entity in its taboos and prejudices. As such, when young Molly declares in the first pages of the novel "it makes no difference where I came from. I'm here, ain't I?" it serves as a prophetic echo that resounds through the rest of the novel—not only in regards to Molly's attitude toward her own coming-of-age story, but as an emblem of the larger feminist and gay social movements of the 1960's and 70's.
For the "of its time" quality is at once a large part of its charm and the source of its most disquieting elements. For if the handling of some issues—most particularly race—leave a lot to be desired, the novel is also is very prescient in its adamant eschewal of labels, particularly in regards to sexual identity, and anticipates by several decades the embracing of the term and concept of "queerness" within the LGBT community:
"So now I wear this label 'Queer' emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet 'L' on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don't know what I am--polymorphous and perverse… I'm me. That's all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?"
"Why have you got to label everything?"
While not unproblematic by any means (Molly's outspoken repulsion of butchness and the butch/femme dichotomy often comes off as mean-spirited rather than the pointed critique it was probably intended as), the avoidance of neat categorization creates a textual and sexual space for a character and a narrative that still, after all these years, remains singular and even remarkable in a number of ways.
Oh, I loved this book. I laughed and I cried and it reminded me to be so thankful and grateful for those who came before me and paved the way. Those who made it possible for me to be out and comfortable enough to not have my life crashing down around me because of who I love. We have come so far, but we truly still have so far to go.
I want to live in a world where I can walk down the street holding my girlfriends hand without having to endure the nasty stares and the horrible comments muttered under strangers breaths. I want to live in a world where I am not called unrighteous or unnatural or nasty or disgusting because I happen to love women. I want to live in a world where I can be free to be myself and not have to hide who I am as if it's some nasty secret, just so I can keep a job (You can still be fired from your job in 29 states for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and fired in 38 states for being transgender). I want to live in a world where people aren't being killed because of who they love, where I can go to a gay club or bar and not have to fear for my life because of who I am. I want to live in a world where people don't think that WHO I AM is wrong. I may never see a world completely devoid of all these things, but I will continue to fight for my rights and the rights of my brothers and sisters and hope that maybe my children will see that world, maybe their children will see that world.
This book not only dealt with the struggles of being lgbtq in the 60's-70's, but also the struggles of being a woman, which is another issue that we still have to fight for to this day. It is unreal how we can come so far as a country and yet still have so much inequality in this world. Women and POC have to work 10x as hard to achieve something that a white man is given.
I am proud of who I am and I refuse to watch this country take a leap backwards. I will go down fighting trying to prevent that.
The first few chapters I was laughing so much I was for sure I would be giving this book a high rating. It was a good book that I had not heard of before, thanks library book club. Molly Bolt is an steadfast character and while she just might be Brown living out her younger years, it wasn't the greatest, but still an enjoyable read.
I've read this book about 8 times in the last 18 years. In it, she mentions bagels & lox. I only JUST, at age 31, figured out what LOX was, though... Thankfully I understood everything else in the book, so we're good. I was just late on the lox stuff.
Definitely an interesting historical look at some concepts (lesbianism, feminine gender roles in society). I did think it was a little heavy-handed and presumptuous at times (the fact that every woman the protagonist is interested in wants to sleep with her as well, the idea that anyone who can throw off the shackles of societal standards would prefer to be a lesbian because the sex is objectively better, etc.) Also her talent for her chosen career is portrayed in very tell-don't-show manner (my 8th grade English teacher would not approve). And in the end, I wasn't clear if the message was more of a general nonconformist message, feminist, or pro-lesbian. Still, I see why this book was important in its time.