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Alice Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by…

Alice Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

by Alexis Coe

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11515150,848 (3.31)2
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    Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema by Anne Helen Petersen (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Professional historians interpret newspapers and other documents to bring readers new perspectives on old scandals.

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This book got three stars, for me, three stars is a decent rating, it means I liked it, I just don't know if I can recommend it.

There is virtually no investigation, the murder was witnessed and the perp arrested that same day. There is also almost no trial covered.

The main focus of this book is the issue of homosexuality, or in this case lesbianism. The idea that a person could love a person of the same sex is viewed as a mental illness. And that is the whole focus of the case. Was Alice in her right mind? She loved Freda like a man loves a woman. Doesn't that make her insane?

end spoiler

The ending of this whole case is tragic. There are no easy answers. ( )
  BellaFoxx | Nov 26, 2017 |
I have a special fondness for biographies about two things: queer women and true crime (specifically, murder). So right away I knew this book was for me; thankfully, it didn't disappoint.

I'd only ever heard about this case in passing, so I was excited to dig into a case that, in its day, caused a huge scandal, but had largely been forgotten in modern times.

I love how Coe doesn't just cover the crime itself -- she also takes time to flesh out the social and economic and racial politics of the time period during which it occurred. It really helps you to gain a greater understanding as to why everything played out the way it did. Everything is so richly described and the gorgeous illustrations scattered throughout add another layer of awesome. ( )
  majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
3.5 stars.

A short read about a remarkable case at the end of the 19th century in Memphis. Alice & Freda were teenaged girls who had pledged - and planned - to marry & make a life together. Alice held this promise close; Freda was not as committed, & entertained offers of engagement from male suitors. This betrayal drove Alice to murder Freda in broad daylight, in plain sight of multiple witnesses, with no regard for the consequences. Alexis Coe's examination of this well-publicized trial brings to light many things not even imaginable to our modern society.

She touches on the treatment of women in this book, & this is well-trod territory: women were judged as hysterical, as needing to be protected from certain topics, blamed for things men were praised for, not allowed to fully participate as citizens, and the like.

What Coe brings forward is just how unheard of Alice & Freda's relationship was. There weren't even words for it: the word lesbian didn't enter the American lexicon for another 40 years. The idea that Alice would pose as a man to get a job and support her wife was so inconceivable to Memphis society that Alice could easily be seen as insane. What else could she be?

Without the words to define themselves, or examples to model themselves after, Coe poses some interesting existential questions about the two. How did they see themselves? How realistic were their plans? Clearly, Alice wanted to pursue their engagement at all costs, would take any risk. Freda kowtowed to pressure from her older sister to break ties with Alice, and by her last letter, it appears she was over whatever she felt for Alice. So what was this? Were they lovers thwarted by the narrowness of their society? Were they bored teenaged girls who happened upon a physical relationship and took it too far? Was Alice just an obsessive personality? Was she a lesbian who thought she met her true love & wouldn't give it up? Was Freda careless with Alice's affections? Had she truly returned them at one point? So much is left unanswered.

What's interesting to me is that we cannot answer most of these questions from our current perspective. And it's interesting to imagine how exciting these plans must have been for these girls: they were going to buck ALL social conventions & live their secret lives in plain sight. How thrilling it must have been for these young women to imagine something so outside of their constraints that their society didn't even have a word for it. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
This to me read more like a young adult fiction book then a true crime account. Maybe I was not as thrilled because I made the mistake to read the first chapter where I immediately was thrown in the act of the murder, the perpetrator and the victim. As some of you know I HATE THAT!

It is not bad but not great either but as I said do not make my opinion stop you from giving this book a try.
It could just be me!

( )
  Marlene-NL | Mar 12, 2016 |
A brief but fascinating window into a unique corner of LGBT history, touching on race, class, and gender issues in late 19th century Memphis. The illustrations and excerpts from personal letters, newspaper articles, and court documents added a great deal to the story. ( )
  Tafadhali | Nov 18, 2015 |
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"In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn't her crime that shocked the nation--it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fianc‚ee Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again. Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter--and her father's razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fianc‚ee's throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail--including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of "the finest men in Memphis" declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later. Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes--painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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