Born at the end of 1944, Rita Mae Brown is known primarily as a lesbian, feminist, activist, and author. She is also a orphan, screenwriter, animal lover, and farmer.

She received an Associate's degree from Broward Junior College in 1965, a Bachelor's degree in English and Classics from New York University in 1968, and a cinematography degree from School of the Visual Arts in 1968. Despite accomplishing all this, the 1960s for Brown were more a time of political activism. She participated in the civil rights movement and demonstrated against war; she helped start the women's liberation movement and a chapter of the Student Homophile League. She was one of two women at the Stonewall Riots, and in 1969 publically outed herself at a meeting of the National Organization of Women - a new group, at the time not open to lesbians. When told her self-outing was courageous, Brown's response is generally that she's a bad liar and might as well tell the truth. Four years later, in 1973, she published her first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, the story of a young girl who is proud of her homosexuality. She earned a Ph.D. in English and Political Science in 1976 from the Institute for Policy Studies, and spent the winter of 1977-1978 as a writer-in-residence at the Women's Writing Center of Cazenovia College. The 1980s found Brown in Hollywood working as a screenwriter, and in 1982 she was nominated for an Emmy award. Those years were also a period of loss for her, as her friends died from AIDS, she broke up with Martina Navratilova, and had to deal with the death of her mother. In the late 80s, she began a new series of novels, the Mrs. Murphy Mystery Series (co-written with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown), and continued those through the 1990s. At the age of 53, Brown published Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser, her 1997 autobiography; today she lives on a farm in Charlottesville, VA.

Publications

  • The Hand That Cradles the Rock - poetry - New York University Press, 1971
  • Songs to a Handsome Woman - poetry - Diana Press, 1973
  • Rubyfruit Jungle - novel - Daughters Press, 1973 - Bantam Books reprint, 1979
  • The Plain Brown Rapper - collection of political articles - Diana Press, 1976
  • In Her Day - novel - Daughters Press, 1976 - Bantam Books reprint, 1988
  • Six of One - novel - Harper and Row, 1978 - Bantam Books reprint, 1979
  • Southern Discomfort - novel - Harper and Row, 1982 - Bantam Books, 1982
  • Sudden Death - novel - Bantam Books, 1983
  • High Hearts - novel - Bantam Books, 1986
  • Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer's Manual - non-fiction - Bantam Books, 1988
  • Bingo - novel - Bantam Books, 1988
  • Wish You Were Here - novel - Bantam Books, 1990
  • Rest in Pieces - novel - Bantam Books, 1992
  • Venus Envy - novel - Bantam Books, 1993
  • Murder at Monticello - novel - Bantam Books, 1994
  • Pay Dirt, or Adventures at Ash Lawn - novel - Bantam Books, 1995
  • Riding Shotgun - novel - Bantam Books, 1996
  • Murder, She Meowed - novel - Bantam Books, 1996
  • Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser - autobiography - Bantam Books, 1997

Why am I interested in Rita Mae Brown? I admit that I have only read her Rubyfruit Jungle and Bingo, and that I picked up the former because it was about a gay teenager. I came across the latter after taking an interest in Sue Grafton, and found it next to Brown's mystery series. But she has an easy writing style that feels familiar - I shouldn't be able to identify with the protagonist of Rubyfruit Jungle, all we have in common is that we're both dykes, and yet Brown makes her immediately likeable. I don't have anything else in common with the star of Bingo, but the writing style makes me immediately interested in the small-town journalist. While Brown herself is a revolutionary, her work never seems so - none of her characters are out to change the world, and there is no pressure on the reader to do so.

Sources
http://home.houston.rr.com/blase/Root%20Folder/ritamae.html
http://www.ritamaebrown.com/professional/vitae.html

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