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Literature / Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is Jeanette Winterson's somewhat autobiographical Coming of Age novel about a young adopted girl discovering she's a lesbian in a fanatically Christian community. It was later adapted as a Mini Series by the BBC.


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  • Abusive Parents: As Jeanette notes late into the novel, her mother never touches her except out of anger. We see at least one scene of her mother striking her for sending her birth mother away, making her go pass fliers out in the rain, and finally disowning her after she comes out.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Jeanette is renamed Jessica in the TV adaptation, possibly to reduce the autobiographical elements of the story.
  • Adults Are Useless: The only adult who even tries to help the protagonist is Mrs. Jewsberry who has possibly non-consensual and definitely underage sex with her.
  • Allegory Adventure: The fairy tales that pepper the text usually mirror Jeanette's life in some fashion.
  • Author Avatar: Quite obviously Jeanette.
  • Biblical Motifs: Tons of them, including: casting the first stone, the walls of Jericho, Lot's wife, "to the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1.15), the number seven, and the names of the chapters.
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  • Black and White Insanity: Most of the congregation members, but her mother takes the cake. She grows out of this somewhat at the end of the novel, when she lets Jeanette back into her life despite still not fully approving of her attraction to women.
    [My mother] had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies.
  • Break the Haughty: Jeanette suspects her mother went through this, after a great deal of corruption and moral decay was revealed to be in the inner workings of the congregation (embezzlement, adultery, practicing voodoo on asylum patients), forcing it to split up.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jeanette idolizes her mother when she's young, until her mother turns her back on Jeanette and her own beliefs regarding women having leadership roles in the church in order to find blame for and cure her lesbianism.
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  • Butch Lesbian: Kinda. Jeanette says she sees no similarity between herself and men — except that she always wears trousers. In the miniseries this is averted: she almost never wears trousers and yet is attracted to the femme Melanie.
  • Coming-Out Story
  • Cool Old Lady: Elsie
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: Implied with the interactions between Jeanette and Mrs. Jewsberry.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jeanette's mother.
  • Girls' Love: With Melanie and later Katy.
  • Happily Adopted: Averted. Her mother is quite the piece of work, and strikes Jeanette when the girl objects to her sending her birth mother away without even letting her see or talk to her.
  • Henpecked Husband: Her father. In fact, the whole reason her mother chose him was because of how submissive and compliant he was.
  • Holier Than Thou: Melanie's husband has this attitude. So does Jeanette's mother and most of the congregation members.
  • Jane Eyre: It's Jeanette's mother's favorite book. Later we find out that her mother changed the ending so that Jane marries St. John.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: In the miniseries.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Elsie
  • Motif: The eponymous oranges. Also the rough brown pebble.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Jeanette was like this as a child.
  • No Sex Allowed: This seems to be the rule in Jeanette's community. Her parents adopted her to avoid having sex.
  • Only Sane Man: Jeanette for most of the story.
  • Parental Neglect: When Jeanette is little, she's deaf for three months and her mother doesn't even notice.
  • Religion Is Wrong: Or at least fundamentalism is.
  • Secret Keeper: Elsie eventually reveals to Jeanette that she's known what she is all along, but didn't tell her or anyone. Mrs. Jewsbury also knew and didn't tell, but her reasons are less altruistic since she's wants to sleep with Jeanette.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Jeanette's mother is implied to feel this way about her past with her many paramours and Pierre.
  • Spiteful Spit: Jeanette's response when Melanie's husband very condescendingly tells her that he forgives them both.
  • Title Drop: Towards the end, when Jeanette's mother winds up with a ton of pineapple and everybody at the church eats lots of pineapple dishes for a while.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Though all the other lesbians in the miniseries are Lipstick Lesbians, the two who run the sweet shop are a butch/femme couple.
  • Theme Naming: The chapters are named for the first eight books of the Christian Bible.

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