The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) has chosen Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule to receive the 2024 Lee Lynch Classic Award. The work will be honored at the GCLS 20th Annual Goldie Awards Ceremony in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 13, 2024.
Desert of the Heart was first published in hardback in 1964 by Macmillan Canada, with subsequent editions published for decades following. Desert of the Heart was adapted into the 1985 film Desert Hearts.
"Conventions, like cliches, have a way of surviving their own usefulness." From its opening sentence, this literary novel departs from the standard lesbian pulp of the time. Desert of the Heart is the story of two women whose friendship develops into a romantic relationship in 1950s Reno, Nevada. Published five years prior to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Jane Rule's home country of Canada, the novel explores the depth and complexities of a lesbian relationship, and unlike the contemporary pulp novels, ends with hope instead of tragedy.
Jane Rule was selected as the 2007 Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer.
"It is timely to recognise Desert of the Heart because of the recent renewed assault on queer books. [Jane Rule] tells a story of self actualisation and bravery that are part of the pride of lesbian communities past, present and future."
Jewelle Gomez, GCLS Trailblazer (2016)
"It should come as no surprise that Desert of the Heart was censored and challenged throughout its life. Rule responded 'The assumption . . . that there must be something pornographic [in my writing] because of my sexual orientation is a shocking way to deal with my community.' (1994) She understood that censorship of our books is censorship of our lives."
Karin Kallmaker, GCLS Trailblazer (2011)
"Desert of the Heart impacted me, and thousands in my generation and later, by depicting lesbians as we truly are. Rule's was the first literary novel to present lesbians to the public without sexualizing or destroying us. The characters are not mentally ill. They are living everyday lives and functioning in society. Rule wrote with a moral certitude and seriousness that allowed her to develop entirely realistic, in-depth characters and situations any reader, queer or straight, might identify with and learn from. Her choice of settings - the desert and a casino - was alluring and enhanced the character interaction. Rule's plot, or storytelling, was emotionally complex yet engaging and enduring. In the days when lesbianism was a punishable crime, Rule dared use her considerable literary talents to write a book that changed lives and literature and created, by example, the abundant lesbian literature we have today. Because of Desert of the Heart and its author, I write serious lesbian stories."
Lee Lynch, GCLS Trailblazer (2009)
With the Lee Lynch Classic Award, GCLS recognizes works of historical value within the genre of lesbian/sapphic literature. Selected by recipients of the Goldies' Trailblazer Award, this prestigious award was first presented in 2012 to The Swashbuckler by Lee Lynch, the honor’s trailblazing namesake.