Book Review – Ruby Fruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
In Ruby Fruit Jungle Rita Mae Brown never shies away from tough topics. Poverty, systemic homophobia and sexism are all covered. It is lifted from a potentially depressing story by the wit and humour of the sometimes frustrating but nearly always hilarious protagonist Molly.
“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am – polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”
There is probably much to criticise in this novel – it’s certainly not high literature in terms of style or language, there’s more than a couple of scatological references that I could have done without and there is not a huge amount of character growth from anyone.
Viewed with a modern eye it has in many ways not aged well, some of the language is dated and there are, I understand many criticisms that Brown is negative about motherhood as well a Butch culture at the time.
However, and it is a huge however, Molly is a an absolute pleasure to read. From an early age Molly recognises that she is different from her family in ways that are outside of her emerging sexuality. She is smart, ambitious, incredibly driven and self-aware which leads to more than a couple of laugh out loud scenes in the first half of the book. The children’s nativity scene in particular is one I would love to see on film. Life continues to throw all sorts of difficult situations on her but her self-belief and self – reliance continues to shine through in a way that I found cheerful and positive even despite the slightly ambiguous ending.
Buy Ruby Fruit Jungle