Every Friday I will be recommending a work of fiction or non-fiction written by a woman who has influenced and shaped my intersectional feminist perspective, with special emphasis on women of colour, women in translation, LGBTQIA women and women of different religions.
I realise my timing is not the best, it has been Pride Month for the whole of June but it is only now that I mention a book with a lesbian protagonist. Partly my own ignorance (I haven’t actually read many books with LGBTQIA+ characters) but mostly because of self-imposed financial restraints I have been forcing myself to read books that I already own on my e-reader. Unfortunately not many of the them (maybe none of them) include LGBTQIA+ themes or characters. It’s definitely an area of feminism I need to explore more and have every intention of doing so when I’m able to. Anyway, this Friday Reads is a book I read as a young teenager. Heralded as the quintessential queer coming-of-age-tale, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a brilliantly wry, funny and touching semi-autobiographical account written by one of my favourite British writers.
Published in 1985, Jeanette Winterson’s debut describes the upbringing of a young girl who has been adopted by an Evangelist family from the Elim Pentecostal Church in the north of England. Growing up in a closed environment – she was homeschooled until the age of seven and only ever socialised with members from the same congregation – Jeanette finds it hard to fit in with her peers and the small countryside community she lives in. As an outsider she becomes extremely frustrated that people don’t understand her, particularly her mother, and this feeling grows as she falls in love with another girl. Written in Winterson’s distinctly witty humour and embedded with Biblical references – even the chapters are named after the first eight books of the Bible – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a classic that continues to stand the test of time.
Jeanette Winterson grew up in Lancashire after being adopted by followers of the Elim Pentecostal Church. Aged 16, Winterson came out as a lesbian and left home, supporting herself through college and university at Oxford. She rose to fame after the publication of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and since then has won numerous awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction with Written on the Body (1994) and Lesbian Memoir or Biography with Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2013).