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Rita Mae Brown—one of the first openly gay celebrities in America, as well as one of the founders of the Second Wave women's movement—has had a life worth writing. She has produced numerous popular novels and screenplays, and had lovers as famous and difficult as herself—Martina Navratilova, Fannie Flagg, and Judy Nelson. Given away at birth by her teenage mother, she was raised by relatives; her adoptive mother was the "Juts" made famous in Brown's novels. Juts comes alive in this memoir, too, as does her impossible sister, Aunt Mimi. The book offers a touching evocation of a southern tomboy's childhood, as well as unsparing descriptions of early feminism and of the peculiar burdens of gay celebrity. Rita Will has witty and absorbing moments, but much of it is morally and politically preachy: She's against secrecy, homophobia, big government, sexism, and racism. Readers won't be especially surprised by these positions, and most would probably rather hear about her life. The narrative is interrupted constantly by her gushing gratitude to people who have helped her out in times of need. And as we might expect from a writer who has coauthored numerous titles with her cat, Brown packs her memoir with sentimentality about the animals in her life. This volume would be better if it were much shorter; it's dangerous when egoists write memoirs. They assume that every experience is interesting, simply because it's theirs.
Worth reading, especially for Brown's numerous fans. But for the better-than-truth version, and to spend time with someone more likable than the real Brown, go back to Rubyfruit Jungle, the only-slightly-autobiographical novel that made her famous.
"Breezy, accessible, lively...There's no doubt that Brown can tell a story with the best of them. Rita Will is like a long story told on a country porch."
—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review