Born in South Carolina and raised in Houston, Texas, Davis enjoyed an early life of wealth, privilege, and Southern gentility. After a brief stint at Vassar College, she earned her bachelor's degree (and later a master's degree in literature) from Rice Institute (now University).
Like many women of her generation and class, Arnold was married soon after graduation to her classmate Gilbert Harrington Arnold and quickly had five children. However, her marriage failed in the 1950s, and she moved with her children to Greenwich Village in New York with the intent of becoming a writer.
Arnold immersed herself in the rich cultural diversity of the Village. There she established her feminist as well as lesbian identity--matter-of-factly, without drama, but with eloquence. Her first novel, Applesauce (1966), dealt in part with her marriage and her difficulty in fulfilling the traditional roles expected of a woman, wife, and mother. The book established Arnold as a writer of lesbian feminist themes.
In Greenwich Village, Arnold also began a relationship with Parke Bowman, a lawyer who became her long-time partner. Bowman and Arnold moved to Vermont, where, with novelist Bertha Harris and political theorist Charlotte Bunch, they founded Daughters Inc., Press in 1973. In its five brief years of existence, Daughters Inc. published thirty titles, most notably Rita Mae Brown's groundbreaking Rubyfruit Jungle (1973) and Harris's innovative Lover (1976). The press also published Arnold's next two acclaimed novels.
In The Cook and the Carpenter, a Novel By the Carpenter (1973), a pioneering work of lesbian feminist fiction, Arnold deliberately obscures and subverts the gender of the characters, replacing all gender pronouns with the made-up terms na and nan.
Sister Gin (1975) is Arnold's best-known work, celebrated for its articulation of aging lesbians and vivid descriptions of the menopausal experience. It is a difficult read; the nonlinear narrative is experimental in style and occasionally hard to follow. In Sister Gin, Arnold tackles other issues that plague the lesbian community, including alcoholism, infidelity, and struggles with weight. She refuses to make her characters easy and likable; rather, she writes them as complexly human and wholly believable.
Arnold helped to organize the first Women in Print conference in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 1976, and contributed to many mainstream and alternative journals and newspapers, including the Village Voice and the Houston Post. She was a member of PEN, the National Organization of Women (NOW), and the Texas Institute of Letters.
In 1978, after Daughters, Inc. declared bankruptcy, Arnold returned with Bowman to her childhood environs to write Baby Houston (1987), a book about her hometown and her mother. She took the extraordinary step of attempting to inhabit her mother's life in order to write not a biography but a novel from her mother's point of view. Baby Houston was published five years after Arnold's premature death from cancer at the age of fifty-five.
Arnold's legacy is that of a courageous pioneer whose writings give voice to complicated characters who previously had no voice in literature.
Author: Williams, Carla
Entry Title: Arnold, June
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated October 1, 2012
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/arnold_j.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date March 11, 2013
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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