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Alice Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by…
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Alice Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

by Alexis Coe

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10314117,210 (3.29)2
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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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 |
Alice Mitchell slits the throat of Freda Ward on the streets of Memphis, 1892. This is shocking enough but in Alice + Freda Forever we learn that they were, in fact, lovers at a time when there was no word word for same-sex love and no concept of same-sex marriage. This is the true account of their relationship, the crime, the trial, and the aftermath. By all accounts, this is a profound tragedy made sadder by the ignorance and prejudice of the day. The author employs scrupulous research and documentation for the case but this reader could have used a bit more punchy writing. This is a good story; in the hands of a better nonfiction writer, it could have been great. ( )
  mjspear | Oct 26, 2015 |
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