One of my heroes, Jane Rule, died last night at her home on Galiano. I don't think I'm stretching it to say that she was one of the most important lesbian writers on the planet.
Radclyffe Hall may have been lesbiana's first important writer, but her characters were self-hating dykes who liked to hide in the closet and never got what they wanted. Rule wrote about women loving women in ways that made lesbianism look positive and life affirming.
Desert Of The Heart is her most famous book, in large part because it became a full-length feature film, much to the pleasure of lesbians desperately seeking any images of lesbians in mass media. But the book had already become a cause celebre as one of the first ever to take a lesbian relationship seriously and not as something to villify. Unbelievably, Desert was released in 1964, before the women's movement took hold and when lesbianism truly was something no one talked about.
But Rule did - openly. She was out and proud when very few other people were. When Desert Of The Heart came out, so did Rule. She became the sole spokeswomen for lesbian anything and jokingly referred to herself during the 60s and 70s as the only lesbian in Canada.
But she didn't matter only because of her sexual orientation. She was a great writer, period, and not only when she took on lesbian themes. Her books show a profound appreciation for community and she drew terrific characters of all kinds. Memory Board, written in 1987, is one of the first books about an elderly couple, one of which is suffering from dementia. If you've had with any experience with Alzheimer's disease in your family, you should stop at nothing to get your hands it.
Writer, deeply opinionated politico - she fiercely opposed censorship, supported the Body Politic no matter what was getting that publication into trouble and was a savage critic of gays getting married - Jane Rule lived life large.
Dying of cancer, she reportedly took a bottle of Scotch and a box of chocolates to bed with her as she lay dying.