Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown
First published: 1973
“Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly figures out at a young age that she will have to be tough to stay true to herself in 1950s America. In her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness. Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to be put in a box.”
What bugs me the most about Rubyfruit Jungle is that it has been outright labelled as a “lesbian novel” when in fact, it has so many layers that naming it a lesbian novel is an unfair judgement. The same as a person is more than their sexuality, Rubyfruit Jungle is more than Molly’s sexuality. While the fact that Molly is a lesbian is a powerful theme throughout the book, the author Brown addresses so many more issues.
Brown has fictionalised her story to create Molly’s and in more ways than one, the raw honesty and personal experience shines through her sharp humour (this book is generally laugh-out-loud hilarious). Both Brown and Molly are lesbians, born in the South of America and moved to Florida as a teenagers. Both were adopted, taunted because they were born outside of marriage, and their loved adopted fathers passed away when they were teenagers. They both lost scholarships to university because they were lesbians and hitchhiked to another city, for a better chance.
Despite all the chaos and drama raised in Rubyfruit Jungle, I find the back story with her adoptive mother the highlight of the entire novel. Without providing spoilers, because I feel as though to appreciate it like I did, you need to experience it for yourself. But the emotions that the characters Molly and her mother Carrie actually brought out in me were intense, from hate, to love, to sorrow. I felt it all as though it was my relationship.
For me, the novel teaches the importance of being yourself and striving for what you want, despite the barriers in front of you. But also, in understanding that everyone is equal. It breaks barriers between black and white, gay and straight, male and female, rich and poor. At the time of publication I can imagine an uproar on the controversial story Brown told, but I can also imagine it helping so many people. I feel that it is still so relevant today – a quick look on Goodreads and you can see reviews from people reading it for the first time today, to people reflecting on how they first felt reading it in the 70s.
Brown has generally created a masterpiece, something that scraps ideals and provides you pure honesty. I find it rare to come across a book that does so much, in such a light, humorous way. It truly is a novel to appreciate.
What is your favourite breaking-barriers book?