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Rita Mae Brown: Writing a landscape for lesbians

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Rita Mae Brown

Rita Mae Brown: Writing a landscape for lesbians

Rita Mae BrownAt 72 years old, Rita Mae Brown is still as feisty as ever. Known for her landmark lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle as well as her Mrs. Murphy mysteries, the author still speaks her mind.

For example, Brown gave an interview to Time Magazine in 2008 where she talked about her hatred for marriage and the ambiguity of her sexuality.

“The funny thing is, I don’t believe in straight or gay. I really don’t. I think we’re all degrees of bisexual,” Brown said during the interview.

Rita Mae Brown’s origins

Just like the protagonist in her seminal novel, Brown– born on November 28, 1944– was left in an orphanage by her teenage mother as her father was already married.

Fortunately, Julia Brown– her mother’s cousin– and her husband Ralph took her in and raised her as their child.

Brown became a scholar at the University of Florida but was expelled for her civil rights movement activities.

She later enrolled at Broward Community College before moving to New York and studying at the New York University for a degree in Classics and English.

The author would eventually receive a certificate in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts and a doctorate in literature and political science.

Rita Mae Brown, the writer

In 1973, she published Rubyfruit Jungle, regarded as one of the most important literature for lesbians for its frank portrayal same-sex relationships.

For a lot of people, the book “changed their lives,” something Brown herself couldn’t believe. Before being bought by a little publishing house called Daughter’s Press for $1,000, the novel was rejected many times.

When it became a bestseller, the small company couldn’t keep up the orders and sold it to Bantam Books where it sold a million copies.

Brown also wrote a number of novels (like the Mrs. Murphy mysteries), as well as screenplays, non-fiction works, and even poetry.

Rita Mae Brown and fame

Brown was later thrust into the celebrity spotlight when she met and fell in love with Czech tennis player Martina Navratilova.

They met at a luncheon in 1979. Brown said of their meeting: “It was a lunch that never ended.”

In 1980, they bought a 20-room mansion and moved in together. By spring of 1981, after Navratilova played at the Wimbledon, their relationship ended.

“She just walked out on me,” Brown told The Washington Post. “She, Navratilova, fell in love with somebody else.”

Rita Mae Brown’s causes and opinions

But despite her writing and her brush with fame, Brown has always been a fighter.

This was because in the ’60s, she had participated in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the Gay Liberation movement. These- activities later led her to being expelled from school.

For a time, she was also part of the National Organization for Women (NOW), but left in 1970 when the organization excluded lesbians.

Later on, she helped found the lesbian newspaper The Furies Collective in the ’70s.

Despite the passage of years, Brown is still as opinionated as ever.

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