It’s Time To Include Gays And Lesbians In Our Study Of Literature

2606 words - 10 pages

The growth of gay people as a group has been astonishing. It is not possible to guess how exactly we will grow from our experiences in the years ahead, but it is possible to predict that growth will continue, one way or another. A diverse and strong global community has been established.(Clark 60)

Dr. Don Clark, clinical psychologist and university professor, boldly expresses his views on the changing nature of the gay and lesbian community in his text, Loving Someone Gay. Clark describes how far gay people have advanced in the last thirty years, moving from isolated and fearful existences to lives marked by political power and potential. Indeed, the gay community, and lesbians in particular, have transformed into large and respected forces in American culture. As with any societal group, their cultural contributions have continued to expand and develop along with their newly acquired political finesse, giving the gay community a sense of pride in its artistic and literary achievements. Since education is a primary source of transferring cultural understanding and awareness, it is essential that educational institutions respect the achievements of this newly empowered community in the selection of relevant curriculum. But they must also be careful; while many texts offer a representative portrayal of the gay community, there are others which reveal a more narrow view. For example, in 1973, author Rita Mae Brown published a shocking exploration of one girl’s growing up lesbian in America. Creating images of rape, incest, and promiscuity, Brown portrayed a cold, angry character willing to blame her sexual identity on a dysfunctional family and an unyielding educational system. While uniquely American in both its authorship and perspective, Rubyfruit Jungle should not be included in a curriculum of contemporary American literature. Because the novel presents a portrayal of lesbianism that is far removed from current gay culture, it is not truly contemporary to the audience for which it was intended. To include it in such a curriculum would be an insult to the lesbian community of today.

When first introduced, Rubyfruit Jungle was a tremendous commercial success. Hailed by many as the ultimate lesbian novel of its time, it took a bold and bawdy look at the lesbian experience in America. The storyline moved quickly, tracing the experiences of Molly Bolt, a young southern girl who had been adopted by a severe, conservative mother and her more liberal husband. Brown’s novel set a tone that was direct and controversial, and employed language that had never before been used in connection with the lesbian experience (Pela 2). The novel is uniquely American, as it traces Molly’s young life from her earliest years in York, Pennsylvania, through a move to a small southern town in Georgia, and finally to the city of New York, where Molly feels as though she belongs. In each setting, Brown forcefully exhibits her craft by capturing not just the...

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