Oranges Are not the Only Fruit
“Oranges Are not the Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson was one of these accidental books that I saw flicking through some discounted literature. The price was reduced and that, of course, added to my excitement as the overview promised a great read.
Now I can say that the content of this book was superb. It captured my attention and made me look for more information about the author, but what’s even more interesting – I fell in love with its title! I guess it’s somehow intriguing and, to tell the truth, very ambiguous as I’m sure you can’t tell what the book was about.
Anyway, I loved the title so much that it inspired me to start up a cycle of paintings (to start is a very important verb here). By the way, I think I’m still stuck in my “fruit” phase – I might be lacking imagination, but whenever I feel the urge to grab some brushes I end up with another still life and, even if it’s portraying a vase with flowers, there always is an apple or a lemon somewhere near by… So “oranges are not the only fruit” is a perfect phrase, which can disguise my feeble attempts to paint something grand. It’s just that at so far I have only one painting ready for this cycle and the subject is… oranges!
But lets get back to the book and its author. Although it is said that it is neither an autobiography nor a memoir, but a Künstlerroman (meaning “artist’s novel” in German or a narrative about an artist’s growth to maturity), if you read about Jeanette, you will know what to expect from her book.
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Jeanette Winterson was born on August 27, 1959 in Manchester, England. John and Constance Winterson adopted Jeanette in her infancy and raised her in Accrington, Lancashire. Her adoptive parents belonged to a Pentecostal Evangelical congregation. Winterson lived a very sheltered early life reading the few books found in her house, which included the Bible, Jane Eyre, and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
Winterson trained to be a preacher at a young age and always desired to be a missionary. When she reached her teenage years, she found a Saturday job at the local library and started reading voraciously. Around the same time, her increasing romantic preference for members of her own sex caused conflicts within her congregation. Winterson’s lesbianism led to an exorcism performed by church officials. Soon after, Winterson broke off her connection to her family and her church. She left home at the age of sixteen and began working in various temporary jobs, such as an ice cream truck driver, a makeup artist in a funeral parlor, and at a mental home.
That’s almost exactly the same as what happens to the main character in “Oranges Are not the Only Fruit”.
But then what about oranges? This fruit appears many times in the story, but what does it stand for? Here’s an explanation offered by some clever literature critics:
“On the broadest level, these oranges represent the dominant ideology that pervades the world in which Jeanette lives. Whenever Jeanette feels uncertain about something, her mother offers her oranges. In some circumstances, these oranges appear to strictly represent heterosexuality. But generally they represent more than just the dominance of heterosexuality; they represent the entire repressive system that Jeanette’s mother espouses. … Throughout the entire book, Jeanette’s mother believes that oranges are the only fruit, but Jeanette can see that there are others. Heterosexuality is just one way of living life, but there are many others that should be equally valued.”
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In the early 1990s, England celebrated Winterson as one of its hottest new writers, so if you haven’t read any of her novels, you should do and even if you don’t like reading books, there’s an alternative – watch the BBC mini series, adapted by Jeanette Winterson.
Information found on Wikipedia and Sparknotes.