18 Classics of LGBTQ Literature

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Cover design by Kate Gamet (Image via Vintage)

12. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was written by Jeanette Winterson and later adapted by her in a BBC miniseries. Though the television adaptation was rather better regraded than Breakfast on Pluto – it won a BAFTA award for Best Drama – I still recommend that you read the book first. It’s a novel that simultaneously tells the story of a small family in a small town, and yet touches on expansive issues surrounding sexuality, independence, and religion.

The book was based in part on Jeanette Winterson’s real-life upbringing in an English Pentecostal community. She would later publish a non-fiction memoir of that time, 2011’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the fictional Jeanette is adopted by evangelical Christians in a small English town. She grows up believing that she is destined to become a missionary. Her adoptive family’s love for one another is deeply tied to their religious faith, and one begins to wonder if Jeanette’s fervor has anything to do with her own need to be loved and accepted.

Things become more complicated as the fictional Jeanette realizes that she is attracted to other girls. Once her adoptive mother finds out, their relationship becomes strained. Jeanette and another girl are even subject to an exorcism. Later, Jeanette leaves her childhood home and strikes out on her own. Though she does not compromise on the matter of her sexuality, she remains in contact with her family, underscoring their complex relationships with one another.