About the book
I Am A Woman is a lesbian pulp fiction novel by Ann Bannon. This is the second novel in the Beebo Brinker series. It was published by Cleis Press in May 2002 (the edition I have anyway) and the book is 200 pages long.
After a bad break up and a terrible fight with her father, Laura flees Chicago to the bright lights of New York, hoping for a better future, a few friends and much less hassle. After finding herself a job in a doctor's office, Laura hears of a room for rent with a woman names Marcie. They instantly hit it off and Laura moves in. However, Laura has secrets about her past and where she came from and keeps herself to herself for the most part. When Marcie introduces Laura to Jack, her life changes completely. Forced to acknowledge her past relationship with a girl, Laura finally begins to come to terms with the fact that she's a lesbian. Jack introduces Laura to the Village, a place where being yourself is ok. This is where Laura meets Beebo Brinker, the star of this series.
What I thought
The books I have had to read so far for my Gender and Sexuality class have all been so different but up to this point, this one has been my favourite. I never know what to expect with a new book for this class so I have to go into each one with no expectations.
What I found about this one in comparison to the others we have read so far is how easy it was to read. Some, like Orlando and The Well of Loneliness, were written in the 1920s, were pretty dire for the most part. I found the language hard to get into and the story of both stiff and boring at times. None of this was the case with I Am A Woman. Being written in the 1950s and aimed at closet lesbians, Ann Bannon uses a fresh and exciting writing style, mixing humour into an important topic.
I warmed to the main character Laura immediately. The beginning of the book shows her life with her father in Chicago and how miserable she is, which is why I liked her. I wanted her to do well, I wanted her to get a better life and to finally be happy with herself. I really enjoyed following Laura's journey as she got herself settled in New York, found friends, a job and somewhere to live. New York is so different for Laura compared to Chicago and she has never been alone in a new city before so it was all a bit of an adventure. As a character, Laura is shy and quiet, due to her past experiences and doesn't really know what to think of herself at times.
Secondary characters were what made this book so special though. Laura's flatmate Marcie and her ex-husband are an integral part of the story but they also bring in some humour and excitement. Jack is Laura's best friend pretty much in New York and he really helps her come to terms with who she is and gets her to really think about what she wants. Beebo Brinker was a fantastic character which is why I guess the series is named after her. She is the most interesting and exciting character in the whole book and we never really get to know too much about her, but I wanted to. She had a lot of mystery around her but at the same time, she was also obviously really comfortable with who she is.
I Am A Woman asks important questions about homosexuality. There are sex scenes but they aren't too explicit which was something I was thankful for. Laura's journey of self-discovery and acknowledgement was one that I really enjoyed and found the writing style refreshing and unlike anything I had read before. I hope the rest of the books for this class are just as enjoyable.