Becoming Ruby


194 pages
ISBN 0-14-301289-4
DDC jC813'.54




Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


In Becoming Ruby, Kathy Stinson powerfully explores the central
developmental task of adolescence: self-definition—that is,
discovering the answer to the universal question “Who am I?” During
the summer of 1967, 15-year-old Ruby Nan Larkin begins to find her own
response by insisting on being addressed as Ruby, not Nan, her middle
name, or its juvenile form, Nanny, still irritatingly used by her
mother. Like many teenagers, Ruby feels distanced from her parents, but
especially from her mother, Joan, who, Ruby claims, still treats her
like a child and favours her younger sisters. From Ruby’s perspective,
the sole person who understands and stands by her is her widowed
maternal grandmother. Summer also brings Daniel, Ruby’s first love,
but autumn separates them as Daniel returns to his home, which is 50
miles from Toronto. Reluctantly, Ruby goes out with Blake, an older
student from school, and the sexual stirrings she first felt with Daniel
shockingly find an outlet with Blake. Autumn’s passage also sees the
hospitalization of Ruby’s mother and her grandmother. Although the
former survives, the latter does not, but Gramma’s funeral provides
the opportunity for change in the mother–daughter relationship.

Today’s teens, with their access to e-mail, text messaging, cell
phones, and likely a car, may have difficulty in comprehending how, in
1967, a couple’s being separated by 50 miles could so affect a
relationship. However, young-adult females will identify with Ruby’s
struggle to recognize her true self while dealing with a controlling
mother. Because Becoming Ruby communicates across generations, public
libraries should stock a second copy in the adult-fiction collection.
Highly recommended.


Stinson, Kathy., “Becoming Ruby,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,