Historical fiction based on the life of Lucy/Joseph Lobdell,
1829-1912, a life of struggle and hope. Important messages about mental illness, transgender and women's issues. All have come a long way in 100 years. This would be suitable for high school reading as well as for adults.
If this novelization had focused less on Lucy/Joe’s entire life, and more on specific sections of her life, it could have been such an unusual read! So much of what could have been really studied -- Lucy's relationship with Lydia, her acceptance, multiple times, into a close-knit circle of male friends -- were passed over in favor of a recounting of a life almost too unbelievable. Regardless, engaging and interesting.
I picked up this book without reading any reviews. The cover and title looked interesting, so I started to read it on my Kindle. One of the first things you see on an e-reader is a page that says "this is a work of fiction...." In other words, a novel. But before long I started noticing footnotes. Who puts footnotes in a novel? And those little news clippings at the beginning of each chapter looked authentic. I was confused - it was reading like a well documented memoir.
Whatever it was, it held my attention and I kept on reading. When I read the long "author's afterword" at the end of the "memoir" I finally understood Lucy Ann Lobdell's story was neither fish nor fowl. The book is not exactly a novel and not exactly history, but rather a hybrid of the two.
The basic story itself is not a new one. We've all read about women who cut their hair and lived as a man. I've read several accounts from the same time period, including a few about women who fought in the Civil War. Often these women are depicted as adventurous or excessively patriotic. Lucy Lobdell certainly had adventures, but her masquerade began and continued as an act of desperation. She simply could find no way to make a life for herself as a woman.
Lucy's story is a vivid reminder of how far women in the western world have come since her time.
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