Rita Mae Brown

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Rita Mae Brown
Born (1944-11-28) November 28, 1944 (age 69)
Hanover, Pennsylvania, USA
Occupation novelist, poet, screenwriter, activist
Nationality American
Website
www.ritamaebrown.com

Rita Mae Brown (born November 28, 1944) is an American writer and feminist. She is best known for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle. Published in 1973, it dealt with lesbian themes in an explicit manner unusual for the time. Brown is also a mystery writer and screenwriter.

Early life[edit]

Brown was born illegitimate [1] in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her biological mother's female cousin and the cousin's husband in York, Pennsylvania and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Starting in the fall 1962 semester, Brown attended the University of Florida at Gainesville on a scholarship.[2] In the spring of 1964, the administrators of the racially segregated university expelled her for participating in the civil rights movement.[3]

Brown wrote in her 1997 autobiography that she had known two brothers enrolled at the university who had participated in the St. Augustine Movement in 1964 and had suffered consequences much worse than what she had faced. "The reports from the University of Florida turned my stomach. The two brothers [whom Brown did not identify by name] who had taken so many risks for integration had been locked on the eighth floor of J. Hillis Miller Health Center [on campus], the nut floor. One of them killed himself. I don't know how. A suicide verdict makes me suspicious, especially in a person as outgoing and stable as he appeared to me. ... Was it a case of 'Let's teach this white boy a lesson'?"[4]

Brown wrote that the two brothers had traveled from the Gainesville campus to St. Augustine to participate in demonstrations there. "I felt that southern whites working for equality and racial justice were thrown to the dogs, or maybe the death of this young man sits heavy on my soul and I couldn't see beyond it. A young man, full of promise and goodness. I couldn't believe my eyes when [my fellow classmate on the Gainesville campus] Jerry [Pfeiffer] wrote me the news [at my adoptive mother's address in Ft. Lauderdale after my expulsion]."[5]

After Brown's expulsion from the University of Florida at Gainesville, she enrolled at Broward Community College near her adoptive mother's home -- her adoptive father had died in 1961[6] -- with the hope of transferring eventually to a more tolerant four-year institution.[7] Between the fall 1964 semester and 1969, she lived in New York City, sometimes homeless,[8] while she studied classic Greek literature at New York University.[9]

Starting in 1973, Brown and her cat named the Baby Jesus lived in a house on Outpost Drive in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles because a behind-the-scenes movie industry person named Marion Rosenberg, who once had worked for producer Elliot Kastner, was impressed with Rubyfruit Jungle and had encouraged Brown to look for work as a screenwriter.[10] Although Rubyfruit Jungle never was made into a movie as Brown and her Los Angeles friends hoped it would be, she did get work from producer Roger Corman. He paid Brown scale for two screenplays that were not filmed during the time she lived in California.[11] Their titles were Room to Move and Sleepless Nights.[12]

In 1977, Brown bought a farm in Charlottesville, Virginia where she still lives.[13] In her 1997 memoir titled Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser, she described the property as she and her intimate friend Fannie Flagg, whom she had met in Beverly Hills, California, discovered it during a trip to Virginia: "... a simple Federal farmhouse caught our eye. Situated on a scant thirty-four acres, it had a garage and a little gardening shed, and best of all a cow barn that could be converted into a stable."[14] In 1982, while Brown lived there, her old screenplay Sleepless Nights was retitled The Slumber Party Massacre and given a limited release theatrically.[15]

Education[edit]

Brown attended New York University, where she received a degree in classics and English. Later,[when?] she received another degree in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts. Brown received a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University in 1976 and holds a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.[16]

Political activism[edit]

In the late 1960s, Brown turned her attention to politics. She became active in the American Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, the Gay Liberation movement and the feminist movement. She took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but angrily resigned with Michela Griffo in January 1970 over Betty Friedan's anti-gay remarks and NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations.[17] She played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on May 1, 1970, which protested about Friedan's remarks and the exclusion of lesbians from the women's movement.[18]

In the early 1970s, she became a founding member of The Furies Collective, a lesbian feminist newspaper collective which held that heterosexuality was the root of all oppression.[18]

She has said, "I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual." [19]

Personal life[edit]

Brown has been in relationships with tennis player Martina Navratilova, actress and writer Fannie Flagg, socialite Judy Nelson, and politician Elaine Noble.[20][21] Brown enjoys American fox hunting and is master of her Fox Hunt Club. She has also played polo, and started the women-only Blue Ridge Polo Club.[22]

Writing career[edit]

Poetry[edit]

Brown began her writing career with poetry:

  • The Hand That Cradles the Rock (1971). ASIN: B00JACY1TA
  • Songs to a Handsome Woman (1973). ASIN: B000MZAK26

Novels[edit]

She is known as the bestselling author[citation needed] of a number of novels, including:

Since 1990 Brown has "coauthored" with her talking cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, a cozy mystery series featuring the feline character Mrs. Murphy.[23] These include:

  1. Wish You Were Here (1990) ISBN 978-0-553-28753-0
  2. Rest in Pieces (1992) ISBN 978-0-553-56239-2
  3. Murder at Monticello (1994) ISBN 978-0-553-57235-3
  4. Pay Dirt (1995) ISBN 978-0-553-57236-0
  5. Murder, She Meowed (1996) ISBN 978-0-553-57237-7
  6. Murder on the Prowl (1998) ISBN 978-0-553-57540-8
  7. Cat on the Scent (1999) ISBN 978-0-553-57541-5
  8. Pawing Through the Past (2000) ISBN 978-0-553-58025-9
  9. Claws and Effect (2001) ISBN 978-0-553-58090-7
  10. Catch as Cat Can (2002) ISBN 978-0-553-58028-0
  11. The Tail of the Tip-Off (2003) ISBN 978-0-553-58285-7
  12. Whisker of Evil (2004) ISBN 978-0-553-58286-4
  13. Cat's Eyewitness (2005) ISBN 978-0-553-58287-1
  14. Sour Puss (2006) ISBN 978-0-553-58681-7
  15. Puss n' Cahoots (2007) ISBN 978-0-553-58682-4
  16. The Purrfect Murder (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-58683-1
  17. Santa Clawed (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-80706-6
  18. Cat of the Century (2010) ISBN 978-0-553-80707-3
  19. Hiss of Death (2011) ISBN 978-0-553-80708-0
  20. The Big Cat Nap (4/3/2012) ISBN 978-0-345-53044-8
  21. The Litter of the Law (10/22/2013) ISBN 978-0-345-53048-6

Brown has written about her passions for horses, hounds, and American fox hunting in her fiction and non-fiction for years (Bingo, Riding Shotgun, later Mrs. Murphy books). Brown is also active in a local fox hunt club.[22] In 2000, she began another mystery series, centered around a fox hunting club in Virginia led by "Sister" Jane Arnold. Books include:

  • Outfoxed (2000)
  • Hotspur (2002)
  • Full Cry (2003)
  • The Hunt Ball (2005)
  • The Hounds and the Fury (2006)
  • The Tell-Tale Horse (2007)
  • Hounded to Death (2008)

In 2010, Brown's new series, featuring Mags Rogers and her wirehaired dachshund Baxter, debuted. This series includes:

  1. A Nose for Justice (2010) ISBN 978-0-345-51182-9[24]
  2. Murder Unleashed (2010) ISBN 978-0-345-51183-6

Nonfiction[edit]

  • Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer's Manual (1988). ASIN: B004MNMZF4
  • Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser (1997). ISBN 978-0553099737
  • Sneaky Pie's Cookbook For Mystery Lovers (1999). ISBN 978-0553106350
  • Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small (2009). ISBN 978-0-345-51179-9

Screenplays[edit]

Her screenplay Slumber Party Massacre (1982) was a parody of the slasher genre, but the producers of the film decided to play it seriously. Other screenplays and teleplays include:

  • Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery (1998) (TV)
  • Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (1997)
  • The Woman Who Loved Elvis (1993) (TV)
  • Rich Men, Single Women (1990) (TV)
  • Me and Rubyfruit (1989)
  • My Two Loves (1986)
  • The Long Hot Summer (1985)
  • The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
  • I Love Liberty (1982)

In 1982, Brown was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program for I Love Liberty.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The protagonist Susan in the film Educating Rita (1983) changes her name to Rita after Rita Mae Brown.
  • In the film Ghost (1990), Whoopi Goldberg's character Oda Mae Brown tells a banker that her name is Rita Miller.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  2. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 183–184. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  3. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 183–184. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  4. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 193–194. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  5. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 195–196. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  6. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 144–149. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  7. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 186–189. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  8. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  9. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 209–210. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  10. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 288–289. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  11. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 299–300. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  12. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 299–300. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  13. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 322–329. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  14. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  15. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 298–299. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  16. ^ Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will and Starting from Scratch.
  17. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1999). In our time : memoir of a revolution. Dial Press. ISBN 0-385-31486-8. 
  18. ^ a b Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will.
  19. ^ "Rita Mae Brown: Loves Cats, Hates Marriage", Andrea Sachs, Time Magazine, March 18 2008
  20. ^ Azzopardi, Chris (December 17, 2009). "Welcome to the Jungle". Gay & Lesbian Times. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  21. ^ Bayard, Louis (June 29, 2009). "Crying foul on Martina Navratilova". Salon.com. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b Rita Mae Brown Website Bio, retrieved May 24, 2007
  23. ^ "About Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown". MysteryNet. 
  24. ^ "Rita Mae Brown boks". isbndb. 

External links[edit]