A book review
by Morgan Dyer
You can know something without knowing it. I knew queer women were underrepresented in the media, but I didn’t know it. This past summer I read Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. It’s hard to put words to how much this book affected me.
The story is set in rural Pennsylvania. Molly Bolt is a poor working class white girl living with her adoptive family on their potato farm. She doesn’t conform to her family’s expectations of femininity, and this creates tension between her and her mother, Carrie. When she gets older, she doesn’t conform to Carrie’s expectations of heterosexuality either.
I want to let you know how the book made me feel, without giving away too many of the details. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing yourself for the first time. I don’t think it can be said enough how important it is to see yourself represented in popular culture. If you do not belong to any minority groups, you might take this for granted. Even in this enlightened age, in this progressive city, I had never read a book about a
queer woman that showed her full depth of humanity. In my experience, queer women are sidekicks, or they are the butt of a joke, or they are defined by their relationship to the protagonist, and then they disappear offstage into obscurity.
There are just some things you miss, and if you don’t find them in others you
might start to think you’re alone in your strangeness. When I was grow-ing up, I had all the gay male representation in the world, and I’m very grateful because if I didn’t know other LGBTQ people, I might have never gotten to know that part of myself.
But, there are just some things you miss when you don’t have full representation, and there are big differences between individual LGBTQ people. Those identities are also fluid and they intersect, and it’s confusing as hell.
Regardless of all that, I know that this book mended something inside me that was broken. Reading the story of Molly Bolt gave me a more complete picture of our story. Seeing how she navigated her world showed me how I might navigate mine. I’m grateful to writers like Rita Mae Brown for giving us the rest of the story.
Categories: Arts & Culture