Those words, spoken by her mother as she is taken away from the only home she knows, will echo through the life of Ruby, a young woman who rises from shocking poverty into a world of sensuality and privilege.
Living with her mother and brother in a Depression-era Oklahoma shanty, Ruby dreams of one day being a schoolteacher. But as destitution grinds the family deeper and deeper into dust-bowl tragedy, Ruby is sent away to a different life, to work in a South Carolina brothel. At first she is simply domestic help, then serves drinks in the brothel bar, and finally, as she develops into a breathtaking beauty, she is turned out as a prostitute in the cathouse.
Her red dress, right along with her red lips, nails and fiery red hair, made her no less than the scarlet woman of Kitty’s. Why, when Kitty introduced her to clients as Ruby, it completed her image as the most perfect crimson gem this side of a high-class jewelry store in Charleston.
Ruby takes to the life with the stoicism learned in a life of poverty, mixed with drive and ambition. She is no victim—she plans to use her beauty and sensuality to make herself rich, and then free herself to live any way she damn well wants.
Along the way she falls in love with one of the brothel patrons, a young politician named Johnathon; but he is anything but a prince come to take her away. Dissolute, untrustworthy, and part of a South Carolina political dynasty that is used to getting whatever it wants and getting away with everything else, Johnathon puts Ruby through emotional hell until she can take no more, and ends the relationship.
Having become a star at Kitty’s, Ruby is picked up by a rich foreign diplomat. Seeing a fast track out of her life as a whore, she goes with him to Paris, but finds herself promptly dumped and alone in a strange country and culture. Having no other option, she finds a place in a Parisian brothel, and along the way is given training in more sophisticated arts, in order to take part in elegant sex parties for the affluent.
In time she meets and is entranced by a Frenchwoman named Genevieve, and as the two “seduce the wallets out of every man they meet”, they also have a passionate affair with one another.
As the years pass, Ruby grows in power, wealth and influence. The many threads of her life will cross and uncross: Johnathon returns; her wild affair with Genevieve will burn and then burn out; she will return to America, and experience Hollywood of the wartime years.
Ultimately Ruby will find home calling to her. Her broken, pitiful Oklahoma home…with all of its sadness and dreams. She goes home—like bright, broken glass that has been transformed into a transcendent gem—and there finally sets a course to her life, remembering the words she had spoken to herself as a destitute young girl:
“But dreams are important. I’m going to hold onto mine, someday I’m going to go to a girls' college for teaching and I am going to make enough money to fix this old place up right and have nice dresses and I will buy my eggs at the store. I am going to read every book there is, and drink tea in libraries all with my little finger out. Sure, I might have been poor white trash, but Ruby is my name.” ________________________________________________________________________________________
WATCH FOR: RUBY by Tisha Garcia and R. Paul Sardanas