Book review: Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Refreshingly and unapologetically individual. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, set in the USA in the 1950s is a bold celebration of growing up as a lesbian, the shedding of labels and limits, life as an adventure and making it out of poverty.

Oh great, you too. 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. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?

Molly Bolt is the beautiful, smart, adopted daughter of a poor family with a very strong sense of self. She shrugs off the labels people, including her mother, try to attach to her – bastard, orphan, lesbian, queer, spic, – she shrugs them off and focusses on the things she is passionate about. Molly is bold, funny and shrewd. She shines a light on prejudice and difficulty with humour and is unashamed about not fitting the mould.

I had never thought I had much in common with anybody. I had no mother, no father, no roots, no biological similarities called sisters and brothers. And for a future I didn’t want a split-level home with a station wagon, pastel refrigerator, and a houseful of blonde children evenly spaced through the years. I didn’t want to walk into the pages of McCall’s magazine and become the model housewife. I didn’t even want a husband or any man for that matter. I wanted to go my own way. That’s all I think I ever wanted, to go my own way and maybe find some love here and there. Love, but not the now and forever kind with chains around your vagina and a short circuit in your brain. I’d rather be alone.

It’s hard to believe Rubyfruit Jungle was first published in 1973 but I wish I’d known about it then — it’s so much more uplifting than The Well of Loneliness which was the first novel depicting lesbians that I read — and it was bloody depressing. I love Molly’s frank, tell it like it is boldness and that she is fully committed to just being herself in a world that wants everyone to be the same. She understands equivocally that the ‘problem’ is societies cookie cutter attitude toward what is ‘normal’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s