Rita Mae Brown created a fictional character to teach diversity, and she made the story entertaining and compelling with the use of youthful slang and Molly’s bravado wit. Rubyfruit Jungle was first published in 1973 by a small feminist publishing house, Daughters, Inc., and the book went through seven printings before 1977. When Bantam Books bought the rights and published the novel in 1977 (with repeated subsequent printings), it became a mainstream best seller.
Rubyfruit Jungle was the first lesbian novel published with a positive view of lesbian sexuality by a major press. The novel became a classic in contemporary lesbian literature and brought Brown national recognition. As a bildungsroman, Rubyfruit Jungle is often compared to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and the picaresque tradition of a character on a journey of self-discovery. In this coming-of-age novel, Brown emphasizes the individual spirit; she also shows how society shapes the self and challenges personal freedom. In many ways, Molly is an outsider who moves from innocence to experience as she learns to exist in a hostile world. The novel also is considered both a contribution to and a product of the women’s movement. Molly’s odyssey shows the need for mutual respect among all classes, races, and genders. Her story is lesbian, but her determination applies to many other struggles.
Critics have often noted that...
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