Monday, January 30, 2012

Taking My Life by Jane Rule

"Autobiography," writes Canadian lesbian author Jane Rule, "may be a positive way of taking my own life. [...] I have never been suicidal, but often stalled, as I have been now for some months, not just directionless but unconvinced that there is one." And so Rule wrote about her younger years, from childhood up until she reached 21, which is before she moved to Canada from the U.S.A.

Rule died in 2007 without publishing this manuscript. It was found among her papers in archives at the University of British Columbia by Linda Morra in 2008, when she was researching Canadian women authors.

Rule's teen years in the 1940s are especially interesting. She found herself attracted to women once she reached high school. Her teachers could see what Rule could not: "No one ever mentioned that loving me would be a criminal offence."

Ann Smith, a young and married art teacher, became an intimate friend when Rule was 15. Rule visited her home almost daily. Smith asked Rule one day what she talked about with her therapist, and if she told him she was in love with her. "It wasn't the first time she'd kissed me on the mouth, but it was the first time I felt the ache in my gut turn to fire. 'You have to understand,' she said, holding my face in her hands. 'We can't make love. You have to make love first with a man, adjust to that, or you'll be a lesbian.'"

The cover image is a portrait done by Ann Smith when Rule was 20, during a time when they were lovers. The book offers a welcome look at the formative years of one of Canada's foremost authors.


Claire at Latitude said...

NOW I know which book it was I saw in Greenwood's and then couldn't find again, the same evening! Very striking, that cover.

Amy said...

This sounds like a really powerful and interesting book. I've not read anything by this author but am putting her on my list.

Lindy said...

Amy, I would choose a different Jane Rule book to start with. Her collection of essays, A Hot-Eyed Moderate, or else the novel Desert of the Heart (which was adapted for film) or any of her other novels. Taking My Life is supplementary to Rule's main body of work.

avisannschild said...

I want to read this too! (I've read the two you recommend to Amy already...)

Lindy said...

Avis, I look forward to hearing what you think of Taking My Life.