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Break Points: Narrative Interruption in the Life of Billie Jean King

This article explores intertextual representations of Billie Jean King, focusing on the announcement of her relationship with Marilyn Barnett in 1981 as a disruptive moment that occasioned remedial narrative work on King’s part. Media framing of the incident is examined through three mainstream newspapers, U.S. magazines, television interviews, and King’s autobiography. Analysis of the coverage reveals that at first glance King was quite successful in overcoming the potential rupture to her life story by controlling the narrative, for example, through the staging of a very public apology, relatively supportive public interviews, and the timely release of her second autobiography. Framing the analysis within the context of theories of intertextuality and narrative disruption, and heteronormativity, we argue that King’s success came at the expense of a more radical statement regarding the fluidity of sexual desire.