Since the publication of her autobiographical first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown has been an important literary force. She was born on November 28, 1944, in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She was adopted by Ralph Brown and his wife, Julia Buckingham. She attended the University of Florida and received a B.A. degree from New York University in 1968 in English and classics. That same year, she earned a cinematography certificate from the New York School of Visual Arts. From 1969 to 1970, she was employed by Sterling Publishing of New York City as a photography editor. From 1970 to 1971 she lectured in sociology at Federal City College in Washington, D.C. She was a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., from 1971 to 1973, receiving her Ph.D. there in 1976. After settling in 1978 in Albemarle County, Virginia, she shifted her focus from political feminist and lesbian activism to writing works portraying the importance of building communities (such as the one she has found) where creativity can be nourished and barriers of class, race, and sex overcome.
Although Brown had published two books of poetry previously, Rubyfruit Jungle was the work that first attracted widespread attention. After Rubyfruit Jungle was rejected by the major publishing houses, it was brought out by Daughters, Inc., a small company specializing in feminist works. The novel sold a surprising seventy thousand copies, thus encouraging a large firm, Bantam Books, to acquire publication rights in 1977. Another 300,000 copies were printed, and sales eventually exceeded one million.
Rubyfruit Jungle is a picaresque novel whose protagonist, Molly Bolt, has been likened to Huckleberry Finn. Molly is bright, lusty, and lesbian. She is also, like Brown herself, an adopted child who...
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