Factory work, including the manufacture of tampons, is typically repetitive, regimented, and mind-numbingly dull. Most of the people who manned the production lines at the factory where I worked were women; most of the people in charge of repairing the machinery, or supervising its operation, were men. The line-workers were rarely asked their thoughts about how the plant was being run, or listened to if they made suggestions for improvements. I liked the working-class women with whom I worked, enjoyed their good humor and respected their resilience, but felt so different from them, and not just because of the differences in our ages. "Make sure you marry a rich guy," the two fifty-something women who worked the same line I did would often advise me over lunches in the cheerless cafeteria. "Don't end up stuck in a job like this." That the best way they could imagine to escape from a dead-end job, even for a young woman like myself, on the verge of earning an Ivy League degree, was to "marry up," to pin my hopes on the ambition and earning power of a member of the opposite sex, made me incredibly sad.
But El and Friday, unlike the heroines in Karin Kallmaker's Love by the Numbers (reviewed here) or in another Lambda nominee, Broken Tracks*, spend little time dancing the "is she straight or is she gay" dance. Each is immediately drawn to the other, and unlike the reticent Friday, El knows what she wants and isn't afraid to ask for it. El and "Friday Jill," the name Friday stumblingly gives El when the stranger asks for her name and which El continues to use, thus quickly find themselves in a series of embarrassing public encounters, hilariously involving not one, but three different bathrooms, encounters that begin to persuade Friday that it might just be worth it to get to know El a little better.
But Friday's relationship comes to the attention of the outgoing owner of the plant, Don Krylon, who offers her a raise and a promotion if she uses her "connections and influence with the rank-and-file members of our Krylon family to smooth over any rough spots that might mistakenly lead them to think hospitably about the UAW's false promises" (98). Krylon doesn't want anything to ruin the deal he's made with Ogata, the Japanese company that is about to buy his company, and tells anyone who will listen that if the union vote happens, Ogata will move the production of the lucrative Outlaw truck to another, non-union plant. Will Friday, who has remained determinedly uncommitted to either side during the labor strife, be forced to take a stand?
As long as you don't mind the sexy times taking place off-stage, Hoosier Daddy has everything a feminist might hope for in a satisfying romance: a great conflict; engaging lead characters and expertly-drawn secondary ones; a far-from black-and-white depiction of issues of social justice (despite the smarmy Don Krylon); and enough comedy to have you laughing on nearly every page.
*Another book nominated for the Lambda for best lesbian romance, but which focuses primarily on training and running the Iditarod, with only a tiny smattering of romance thrown in as an accent, and hence won't be reviewed by RNFF.
U. S. auto worker: International Business Times
Right to Work: Workplacechoice.org
Pork Queen float: Tipton County Pork Festival
A Heartland Romance