Rita Mae Brown’s bestselling novel Rubyfruit Jungle was published in 1973 and is still as relevant today as it was then. The novel tells the story of Molly, a young girl growing up poor in 1970’s America, and documents the trials and tribulations that she faces as a gay woman during a time when it was deemed unacceptable to be homosexual.
An autobiographical novel, Rubyfruit Jungle is often considered to be the coming of age novel for lesbians as it explores the complex issues surrounding coming out as gay and experimenting with your sexual orientation.
Rubyfruit Jungle features interesting characters with lifelike characteristics rather than idealised traits. The protagonist Molly is particularly likable and her determination and will to succeed result in the reader becoming emotionally invested in her character. It is extraordinarily easily to relate to Molly not only as a lesbian, but as a woman who is constantly told she cannot do something because of her gender.
Rubyfruit Jungle has shown itself to be a very strong feminist novel with the theme of sexual equality present throughout the duration. Molly is constantly told she should not and cannot do certain things because she is female, however, with the unwavering support of her father Carl and her drive to succeed Molly does not let the gender roles or stereotypes of the 1970’s determine her life in any way.
The strong female protagonist featured in the novel results in a very powerful and moving tale of a woman who, despite all the odds being against her, is not afraid or ashamed to be different.
The novel explores and exposes problems surrounding race, class, gender and sexual orientation and has paved for the way for many other novels to do the same. It is intelligently written and, despite the inclusion of complex themes, Brown will have you laughing throughout at Molly’s outrageous yet hilarious exploits.
Brown has created a novel that will make you laugh and cry whilst simultaneously challenging you to think more deeply about society’s treatment of marginalised groups.
An enlightening, empowering and gripping novel, it is easy to see why Rubyfruit Jungle was a bestseller when it was originally published.
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