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Literary Collections Letters

A Queer Love Story

The Letters of Jane Rule and Rick Bébout

edited by Marilyn Schuster

UBC Press
Initial publish date
May 2017
Letters, Gay Studies, Gay & Lesbian, LGBTQ+, Lesbian Studies
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


In August 1989, Jane Rule – novelist, essayist, and the first widely recognized “public lesbian” in North America – summed up the first eight years of her correspondence with Rick Bébout, journalist and editor with the Toronto-based Body Politic: “It seems to me that what has concerned us is richly human and significantly focused on the concerns of our time and our tribe.”


Rule lived in a remote rural community on Galiano Island in British Columbia but wrote a column for the magazine. Bébout was a resident of and devoted to Toronto’s gay village. A Queer Love Story presents the first fifteen years of their correspondence. At turns poignant, scintillating, and incisive, their exchanges include ruminations on queer life and the writing life as they document some of the most pressing LGBT issues and events of the 1980s and ’90s, including HIV/AIDS, censorship, youth sexuality, public sex and S/M, Toronto’s infamous bath raids, and state regulation of identity and desire.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Marilyn R. Schuster was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Smith College and has been professor and provost emerita since 2015. Her research and writing focuses on contemporary writers such as Jane Rule, Marguerite Duras, and Monique Wittig, and she is the author of Marguerite Duras Revisited and Passionate Communities: Reading Lesbian Resistance in Jane Rule’s Fiction. She lives in Oakland, California.


Rick Bébout was the editor of the hugely influential Body Politic, “the magazine of record for the activities and development of the gay liberation movement across the country.” He was born in Ayer, Massachusetts, and came to Canada at age nineteen in 1969. He died in Toronto in 2009.


Jane Rule was born in Plainfield, New Jersey and moved to Canada in 1956. She died at her home on Galiano Island in 2007 at the age of seventy-six. She was inducted into the Order of British Columbia in 1998, and into the Order of Canada in 2007. She wrote fourteen books, including Desert of the Heart (1964), which was turned into the movie Desert Hearts.

Editorial Reviews

It is a joy reading this correspondence that allows us to truly get to know these two powerhouses of contemporary LGBT history, and to see how they grew as people due to the exchange of ideas and experiences that they shared with each other.

Lambda Literary Review

... a fin-de-siècle dialogue of bicoastal and pan-Canadian sensibilities, A Queer Love Story is a tribute to exemplary citizenship and the ethics of personal responsibility in times of crisis.

The Georgia Straight

It’s one of history’s all-time great queer love stories.

Toronto Star

It is a pleasure and a privilege to “watch” their friendship grow. I highly recommend A Queer Love Story.

The Lesbrary

A Queer Love Story is a wonderful book full of daily life's details, notes on the writing process, and commentary on gay and lesbian issues. It will introduce younger readers to two exemplary members of the gay community ... I felt privileged to be in the presence of these two gifted, courageous writers, both of whom left the U.S. for Canada when they were young. Imagine a book of 600 pages that seems to end too soon. Will we ever again, in this age of texting, have such a lively, spirited, and revealing correspondence?

The Gay & Lesbian Review

A Queer Love Story … encompasses a quintessential period for the queer community in Canada … What emerges is not merely an engaging portrait of two provocative thinkers, but a snapshot of a period in Canadian history that saw a seismic change in the lives and attitudes and ideas of the nation’s queer community.

Quill and Quire - Editor’s Choice, Starred Review

In an era when tweets, texts, and e-mails have surpassed the art and practice of letter-writing, this volume will delight historians of the LGBTQ movement and everyday readers.


Both Rule and Bebout are fiercely intelligent, thoughtful, opinionated and perceptive writers ... This voluminous and essential collection offers delights on every page: beautifully crafted sentences and astute opinions on racism, health care, same-sex marriage, violence and publishing.

Shelf Awareness

Reading a collection of letters can be something of a guilty pleasure. Marilyn Schuster’s edition of the letters of Jane Rule and Rick Bébout, by contrast, is a moving experience, deftly mingling genres of memoir, diary, and essay. Though reduced by three-quarters from the carefully chronologized 2700-page collection both correspondents agreed to present to the editor, covering fifteen eventful years of their correspondence (1981-1995), A Queer Love Story offers a deeply personal view of academic and publishing life from two of Canada’s leading gay authors.

The Ormsby Review

These smart, deeply felt missives constitute a more than 600-page archival record and reference tool. Enhanced by an excellent index, A Queer Love Story will be invaluable to those interested in the history of the queer movement in Canada as viewed by two of its most thoughtful, lifelong participants.

BC Studies

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