Other Titles

Loving the Difficult

Winner of the 2008 Lambda Literary Award for non-fiction.

About the Book

Internationally acclaimed author of seven novels, prolific short story writer and social commentator, Jane Rule compiled this final book of essays in the months before she died in late 2007. As in her fiction and three previously published essay collections, we find here an absorbing story-teller, a wise observer of character and a fearless spokesperson for lesbian and gay rights.

In some of the essays Rule considers episodes of her own life, from infancy almost to its end, reflecting on her relationships with family members and with her partner of 45 years, Helen Sonthoff. She intersperses thoughtful commentary on political themes that have long engaged her, such as censorship, pornography, misguided tax laws and same-sex marriage, and on literary issues such as the nature of story-telling and the role of the woman writer. From memories of her own childhood and from observing the many children who have inhabited her world, she developed a deep understanding of children; in some of these essays she protests government policies that short-change and threaten children, to the detriment of society as a whole.

There is both laughter and grief in these essays, barely-contained anger at injustice and clear-eyed acceptance of what can’t be changed. Above all, the essays are remarkable for their courageous honesty and for that generosity of spirit which made her a mentor, role model and beloved friend to thousands.


“a collection of beautifully lyrical pieces, heartfelt writings filled with conviction and charming personal details.” Globe and Mail

“This lovely haunting volume urges us to love the difficult task of living.” Women’s Review of Books

“Loving the Difficult is unassuming but potent as a message in a bottle. Not just because she’s gone now, but because, in life, she was from somewhere else. I don’t mean Galiano Island, and I don’t mean the 1970s. Jane Rule (like Armistead Maupin) was writing dispatches from a social frontier. And that is far away from where most people live.” XTRA! West

“Rule’s final work, Loving the Difficult, stands as a milestone in gay and lesbian letters. In the engaging essays, the late author/activist urges readers to love, learn and laugh with her trademark intelligence and passion.” Herizons

“The clarity of her thinking is remarkable.” XTRA!

About the Author

Born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1931, Jane Vance Rule received her B.A. from Mills College, California and taught for two years at Concord Academy, Massachusetts, where she met Helen Sonthoff with whom she lived from 1956 until Helen’s death in 2000. After twenty years of working periodically at the University of British Columbia, she moved to Galiano Island, where she became a much-loved and generous contributor to the island community. She died at her Galiano home in November, 2007.

Jane Rule’s seven novels present a range of characters in a variety of situations but it is for her unapologetic and clear-eyed writing on lesbian themes that she is best known. Her first published novel Desert of the Heart became a classic of lesbian literature; it was made into the film Desert Hearts. Her commissioned book Lesbian Images is a pioneering study of the often veiled forms in which women have written of love between women. She was also a prolific writer of short stories and essays, published in four previous collections. For ten years she wrote a column headed “So’s your Grandmother” for the gay liberationist newspaper The Body Politic.

The recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her work as writer and social activist, Jane Rule was inducted into the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and the Order of Canada in 2007.

ISBN 978-0-9736882-6-9
216 pages

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