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Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World Paperback – June 30, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Marjorie Garber (Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety), provides a lively introduction to this picaresque autobiography of a 17th-century nun turned cross-dressing soldier. De Erauso's story itself is a swashbuckler's catalogue of sword fights, daring escapes, damsels in distress, and witty repartee. Even if only half of what de Erauso claims about herself is true, it's a life well worth remembering and an utterly wonderful read.

From Publishers Weekly

When she reached the age of 15 in 1600, Catalina, from a wealthy Basque family, escaped from the convent where she had been placed as a child. Passing as a male, she served as a page in various households until 1603, when she set sail for South America. She remained there for 21 years, fighting as a man in Spain's conquest of Peru and Chile. Engaging in frequent swordplay and gunfights, she killed at least a dozen men, including (inadvertently) one of her brothers. Finally she confessed her true identity to a bishop and returned to Europe as a celebrity, where she received a pension from the king and, from Pope Urban VIII, the right to wear men's clothes. Her story, long on action and almost devoid of introspection, is not for readers looking for scandal or a confession of sexual adventures.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807070734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807070734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on June 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Celebrated in Spanish legends and folklore as the marvelous Lieutenant Nun, Catalina de Erauso was born to a prosperous Basque family in 1585 and sent to a convent at age 4. Destined to become a nun, there she remained until age 15. Days before she was to take her final vows, she escaped, taking only needle, thread, scissors and a few coins.
Despite her previously sheltered existence, de Erauso plunged into her new, wordly life as a man with unusual gusto, as described in her memoir, Lieutenant Nun.
Written some 20 years after her flight, when she correctly deemed confession of her ruse and her still virginal state might save her from the rope or an even more ignominious fate, the memoir describes at breathtaking pace a life of soldiering, banditry and dueling in the wilds of Peru and Chile.
While this slim volume is packed with action, there is little self-reflection or explanation. Transforming her convent undergarments to boy's clothing, she quickly obtains a position with a scholar, runs off when he apparently exhibits too much attention in the boy, and becomes a page at the king's Court.
But when her father (who does not recognize her) appears at court, distraught over his daughter's disappearance, she slips away again. After two comfortable years as a page elsewhere, she quits, "for no more reason than it suited me," returns to her hometown, sees her mother in church (who also fails to recognize her) and leaves, drifting until she finds work as a cabin boy on her uncle's galleon.
While convent education may have fitted her for work as a page, nothing had prepared her for shipboard life. "The work was new to me and I had a hard time at first," is all she has to say about that.
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By A Customer on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Catalina de Erauso grew up in a Basque convent, but spent most of her days as a soldier in the Spanish army in the mid-1600s. This brief autobiography is not a typical tale of military exploits. Although brawling constitutes much of the action, this is the story of a female transvestite. De Erauso dressed as a man to escape from her convent in 1599. Keeping up the disguise for reasons that included an attraction to "pretty faces," she traveled to the Americas in 1603 and fought in the conquest of Chile. When finally forced to reveal her true sex, de Erauso attained brief celebrity in the Baroque world. In 1624, the pope granted her permission to continue her life garbed in male attire. A forword and an excellent introduction by the translators places this fascinating story in historical context.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My interest in GLBT history lead me to this book which is a memoir of the first Spanish transvestite in New Spain. Its short but its a good story I must admit. Its very interesting how when Catalina demonstrates the most aggressive traits of a man is when she gets in trouble and how she constantly runs to the church when she is in trouble even though she escaped from one.
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Catalina de Erauso is an unusual figure in world history : a runaway nun who successfully concealed her gender and navigated the business and military structures of her
time. She's a swashbuckler and an eye level view of Spanish society in Peru in the 1600s. Historians believe that, mostly likely, much of this book was actually written by this remarkable person. I'd recommend it as an enjoyable and quick read offering a first hand view of the past.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was attracted to the title because I am Basque. After reading it, I had questions like "How did she manage to remain undetected for so long" ? I was fortunate to attend a lecture/discussion on this book with a college professor who visited Boise State University for a workshop. Made it more enjoyable and either answered questions or provided reasonable possibilities.
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By A Customer on February 5, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Very good read for time period of the book. Caught me by surprise since I'm a college kid I fully thought this book would be dull and boring as other reading assignments are. I highly suggest this book!
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I was required to read this book for a South American history class. It was a good book, very interesting and an easy read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in South American or Spanish history.
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First person from the 17th century. The world has always been crazy. This will leave you with a new perspective of the Spanish conquest of America.
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