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HaBO-Thon: A Memorable Book For Many Reasons

Cleo is looking for a book that was truly memorable for her, for a number of reasons, including the context in which she read it. Honestly, this book sounds fascinating. 

I have an HaBo.  I read this book in the late ‘80s, during my freshman year at college, and of course I don't remember any names or titles.  I borrowed it from one of my roommates, who borrowed it from someone down the hall, who borrowed it from someone else in the dorm.  I’m looking for it because I think it was ahead of its time – the heroine had several lovers and no dire consequences.  She didn’t die, or get raped, or shamed, or shunned.  I’m sure you’re imagining the earnest conversations we budding feminists and young liberal arts scholars had about the ramifications of this radical plot, but no. Pretty sure everyone read it for the same reason I did – the sex.  And I’m only pretty sure, not absolutely sure, because I barely talked about it with my roommate and I was WAY too embarrassed to talk about the sex in it.  Or the social ramifications thereof.


Some background – I was a bit of a misfit on my first-year hall – I was serious, unworldly, bookish, and socially awkward, (but in a good way, of course), with a short asymmetrical haircut and a wardrobe of baggy dark clothes. I got placed randomly in a hall dominated by worldly earth mother types with long blond hair and hippy throwback wardrobes.  They’d sit on the floor in the hallway, smoking and talking about sex and other shocking (to innocent little me) things.   So no way was I going to talk about the sex in this book with any of them.  Incidentally, we also had a lot of false fire alarms that year – which may or may not have been caused by the girls smoking in the hallway.  Those were the days – all of us stumbling out of the dorm in the middle of the night, standing around shivering, and gossiping about all of the guys also stumbling out of our (theoretically) all-women’s dorm.

But I digress.  I read it in 1987 or 88 but I think it was written earlier – it had kind of a sexual revolution vibe to it (at least in my hazy memory of it).  It was not a romance – I don’t remember an hea.  The heroine was a young woman who lived in a city and had a career doing something and had several lovers.  That is all the plot that I remember.   I do remember more about the lovers.

She met one of her lovers when she interviewed him – I think she was intrigued by the fact that he seemed to be sabotaging himself in the job interview.  And somehow they got together.  He was a large African American man and she was a small white woman and they were both fascinated by how they looked together.  And before they had sex they discussed which position would allow them to kiss and avoid her feet scrabbling at his knees (this is what I remember him saying).  Honestly I found this discussion to be more shocking than the actual sex.  I was so shy then that the idea of talking about sex with a partner seemed much more daring than actually having sex (which is why it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t attempt to have sex at that age).  He later committed suicide.

One of her other lovers was an older white man, who maybe flew her somewhere.  She talked openly with him about previous lovers (again, shocking to me) and told him about losing her virginity in a barn or someplace with a lot of sawdust.


I think the sex was not graphic, especially by today’s standards, but for my 18-year-old self, it was quite memorable.  I have no idea if this book is any good at all, but I would love to read it again.  I hope the bitchery can help.

Oh, the scandal of men in the women's dorms. I went to a women's college in South Carolina, and my senior year, I lived in the dorm that allowed the residents to set their own visitation hours – including (*GASP*) overnight. It was amazing. And yet, that dorm was razed to make room for something else, and doesn't even exist anymore. I joke that they had to demolish it to get rid of those pesky man cooties – and to my knowledge there's no overnight visitation in the dorms now, 10+ years after I graduated. Heh. 

Anyway, enough about single-gender dorms and sexytimes! Anyone recall this book? Doesn't it sound amazing?


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  1. 1
    Cathy B says:

    This is ringing a bell but it’s a weird one – actually a movie I think, not a book, where she listed all her lovers and described them in a few words each – that’s it, Four Weddings and a Funeral!
    Obviously not the book but it did ring bells for me as one of the few occasions where a female was able to talk about former lovers with her current, without appearing or being treated as an utter slut

  2. 2
    Julie Cohen says:

    That sounds really familiar to me. I took a course at university (at this same time, late 80s) called “Feminism or Smut?” And I wonder if that was on the reading list. The position discussion rings a bell.

    I’m trying to remember the book. It was a brilliant course, by the way.

  3. 3
    cleo says:

    Julie – that sounds like a really interesting class.  I took a class called “Women, the novel, and cultural change” but “Feminism or Smut?” sounds like more fun.  And it’s still a relevant question.

    And I’m so excited that my HaBo is posted, I’m practically bouncing in my chair.

  4. 4
    MissB2U says:

    At my dorm (all girls school) men were allowed to visit but only at certain hours.  They posted a sign by the elevators saying “Men on the floor” (yeah, I know), and if we had a gentleman caller we had to keep our doors open and our feet on the floor.  I kid you not, that was a rule.  We had a housemother who liked to tipple but she never missed a thing.  You also had to be 25 or married to be given permission to live off campus unless you had a special dispensation. Which I got my second semester there.  Thought I was gonna lose my mind…

  5. 5
    Amelia says:

    Kinda sounds like Erica Jong to me, but it’s been a really long time since I read Fear of Flying that I could be way off.

  6. 6
    Kristi Lea says:

    My dorm was co-ed. No mixed-gender roommates and there were two bathrooms per floor (each with 2-3 showers, toilets, sinks, etc), but there were boys and girls in rooms next to each other on the floor. I think there were a few girls-only doorm floors, but you had to specifically request them.  This was in the late 90’s.

  7. 7
    kkw says:

    I don’t think it’s the same book, but it reminds of The Women’s Room (on the cover, Ladies was crossed out and I thought the name of the book was The Ladies Women’s Room), in as much as when I read it (I was young as well as apparently none too bright) I found it shocking to have people talking about what they were doing during sex. And there was definitely something about making adjustments for height…using a pillow for optimal positioning…looking down *there* with a mirror.  I don’t actually remember what was so shocking or instructive, but I thought it was great.

  8. 8
    PhyllisLaatsch says:

    I went to a small college and most dorms were co-ed by floor. No housemothers, no visiting hours, even in all-woman dorms (though there were quiet hours and some dorms were allegedly quiet 24 hours a day). The only problems were with your roommate. And yet, I was the shy, embarrassed girl who didn’t talk about sex (or have it, either).

  9. 9
    cleo says:

    It wasn’t Fear of Flying or The Women’s Room, although I read both of them around that same time.  My memory of this book is that it was more trashy than either of those, for what that’s worth.

  10. 10

    It reminds me of a Ayn Rand book. Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead. Maybe but probably not.

  11. 11
    Sallyjo says:

    Definitely not Atlas Shrugged and I’m pretty sure not Fountainhead. The woman in that book had one lover and he was white.

  12. 12
    BadgerChaser says:

    Could it have been one of Anais Nin’s books?  A Spy in the House of Love, perhaps?

  13. 13
    Uwssop says:

    Something about this says Harold Robbins to me.  Though that would mean that the heroine would have to suffer at some point for her sexytimes, or have an Incident in her Past.

  14. 14
    cleo says:

    Harold Robbins and his ilk seem more likely to me than Anais Nin or Erica Jong for this book, which I remember as being more trashy than literate.  I did look through Robbins’ backlist, until I got too disturbed.

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