The Last Book I Loved: Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle

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rubyfruit-jungleRita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle is a crass and hilarious slice of growing up “different,” as fun to read today as it was in 1973. Molly Bolt is an unashamed lesbian in a queer-hating world, an ambitious natural leader in a culture that values longsuffering femininity, and a no-BS thinker surrounded by the ridiculous rituals of racial and sexual segregation.

It’s a tiny book full of literal LOLs and jaw-dropping no-she-didn’ts – a perfectly paced and structured page-turner with an ingenious, confident narrator whose humor brings the world’s most frustrating absurdities into focus, then kicks them down like a pack of cards.

Molly’s is the universal heroine’s journey. Anyone who rejects traditional gender roles or has smarted at the sting of prejudice will nod along in recognition. Molly debates family members, lovers, and friends, not just about what sexual rules to reject, but what life rules to follow: how is having your career handed to you by a powerful lover different from depending on a husband to buy you a dress?

It’s a book about finding a meaningful path, about obeying the soul and denying the gods of custom, about being yourself, even if that means people won’t like you. The novel ends on an unsettled, unresolved note – a fitting non-conclusion, since Molly’s struggle begins anew with the first awareness of each creative, determined kid who looks around and realizes the whole world is against her, or him.


Amy Letter is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in PANK, Puerto Del Sol, Quarterly West, and other journals and magazines. She is the Digital / Electronic / New Media Literature Editor at the Rumpus and assistant professor of Fiction and New Media at Drake University. More from this author →