"There are plenty of coming-out stories on the market, important but familiar tales of women who knew from childhood that they were 'different' and the ways in which they forged their own paths in a heterosexual world. The women in this refreshing anthology come from a different angle entirely. After decades of heterosexuality--frequently perfectly fulfilling--they meet a woman who turns their world upside down. Initially shocked--am I gay? Or is it just her?--they experience a shift in identity that is as welcome as it is unexpected. Some of their husbands and boyfriends are supportive; others are not. Some of the women are still with the woman who prompted the change; some are with another, or in an open marriage with men, or still exploring their identities. All speak of occupying a strange place on the spectrum of sexuality: 'I won't insult my past self by saying I was in denial or confused. I am a textbook example of the fluidity of sexuality,"' writes one contributor. These stories are often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always brave as they reveal an often-overlooked arena of sexuality."
"Most Anticipated LGBT (Relevant) Books of Fall 2010" - Lambda Literary
Dear John, I Love Jane (Seal)—a ground-breaking collection of stories about women discovering their queer sexuality after years in marriages or partnerships with men—is not so much about sex or betrayal or even lesbianism, but about rediscovery of the self.
As Veronica Masen puts it in her story “Watershed:” “It’s been a year of wondering and discovering and poking and prodding at my soul, my belief system, my fear, my desires, my identity.”
Identity and the notion of sexual fluidity are at the core of this book. Candace Walsh previously edited the feisty anthology Ask Me About My Divorce (Seal). In that book, she featured her own coming out story of leaving her marriage and finding the female love of her life on Match.com.
Her co-editor, Laura André, is her partner, and that woman whom she describes falling for in Ask Me About My Divorce. As André, a former art professor, says in their joint Introduction: “Coming from an academic background, I can say that we’re seeing the fruition of what seemed solely theoretical twenty years ago. The idea that sexuality can be pegged to simple binaries (straight/gay, men/women) and that those binary pairs are absolute, has been completely dissolved by the notion of sexual fluidity. The essayists in this book are living proof that sexuality can change over time, often against our will.”
The shattering quality of love is on display in these stories, as the protagonists feel pulled inexorably to a different sort of life, one with less “status” but more authenticity. Erin Mantz’s piece, “Undoing Everything,” relies less on traditional memoir than the others and is almost archetypal, yet the power of her language seems to speak for many of the other stories.
After leaving her husband and suburban lifestyle for a woman at age 39, she feared stigma but “Every person I told hung in there. They hung on my every word as I broke the news,” she writes. To her surprise, her friends stuck by her. “But I was the one who was reeling and changing. They were staying the same.”
Change is the word that crops up in so many of these stories, the eerie shift of leaving one person/gender and one way of life and moving towards the unknown. And yet, something has always been missing from these women’s lives, it seems. Mantz’s essential self hasn’t changed but her world is coming apart: “A sense of place in the world I knew and the ease of being just like everybody else is gone now.” She finishes, “I am living with an enormous bet that what I’m getting will be so much more than what I’m giving up. Yet I will never ever really know, will I?”
These burning, provocative questions continue throughout the book. Some of the transformations/breaks are quick. Others are painfully slow. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” poet and photographer Jeanette LeBlanc writes in “Awakenings.” She has finally acted on her attraction to women, but after she tells her husband, the marriage unravels much too quickly and she is left with regrets and guilt.
She weeps as she contemplates dropping her daughters at her ex’s place for Christmas, knowing that she is the one who has split up her family and made her daughters move between two places. She admits that she misses her husband. And in one of the most poignant moments of the book, in bed at night she asks her girlfriend “When will I feel whole again?”
It is shocking when her lover responds, “It is my experience that you will never feel fully whole again.” LeBlanc concludes that despite the authenticity and rightness of her choice to leave her marriage, “I am both more than and less than I was before.”
Candace Walsh’s story “Counting Down From Ten” is quirky and full of ironic twists. Infatuated with a boy at college, she ends up feeling liberated by making out with his artsy, older, “other” girlfriend one night. Ditching him, the two go on to be close friends and share an apartment, which gives Walsh a taste of living with another woman, albeit platonically.
Despite Walsh’s crush, it isn’t ever a romance. But Walsh writes, “it gave me a model of living together with someone in such a way that everything else since has not measured up. There was unspoken understanding, an alignment, and a harmonious hum. …I now know that women do feel that way with men, and vice versa. I just so happen to be a woman who feels that way only with women. It cradled my spirit, so I could thrive.”
There are 27 stories in Dear John, I Love Jane, and most of them end on a note of happiness. It’s clear that much less societal shame and judgment is visited on women who leave their marriages now than in past years, but leaving a man for a woman is still experienced internally as a momentous act.
Even if the catalyst, the person that makes the writer question or leave her marriage, disappears or fails, the narrator is still forever changed in her perspective about what’s possible.
As one writer says, “Women are beautiful. I listen to my spirit.” - Gabriella West, Lambda Literary
If you're a "straight" woman coming to terms with the fact that you're gay, then this is the book for you. Compiled by Candace Walsh and Laura André (a couple who share their own Dear John story in the introduction), Dear John, I Love Jane is a collection of 27 authentic stories told by women who've "jumped the fence" in the middle of their well-established (oftentimes married), heterosexual lives. While a few stories are tinged with stereotypical predictability, most are unexpectedly poignant and inspirational, and all the ladies deliver the dish with integrity. In "Memoirs of a Wanton Prude," Sheila Smith tells all about her deeply ingrained straight life before meeting her first girlfriend at the tender age of 69. In "This Love Is Messy," Amanda V. Mead offers this as the reason she left her husband for a woman: "I blame Angelina Jolie," she writes (as she should, because Angelina Jolie could turn Jesus into a lesbian). Dear John is sandwiched by a foreword from Dr. Lisa Diamond, who discusses the emergence of "sexual fluidity" (also the title of her book), and an epilogue by Jennifer Baumgardner, who lets women in this situation know that they are not alone. This is a unique, much-needed collection of stories that describe the fear and excitement that come with coming out. In a way, Dear John is like a handbook, providing answers, reassurance, and good company for those with questions. - Whitney Dwire, Bust Magazine
Candace Walsh is hilariously funny, a brilliant cook (all you have to do is follow her on FB to yearn for her to invite you to dinner), and one of the warmest people on the planet. Along with her partner, Laura André, she's producing some of the most interesting books around, including Dear John, I Love Jane, a collection of essays about women who left men for other women.
"Failing Fruitfully:" Candace Walsh, co-editor of the new anthology Dear John: I Love Jane: Women Write about Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press), comes to understand her true desires and, in the process, discovers her writing voice. Read the full essay by Candace Walsh here. - SheWrites.com
Dear John letters—notes that women leave their boyfriends or husbands informing them that their relationship is kaput, usually because they found another man—are speculated to have their origins in America during WWII. Men were at war, women grew impatient and (gasp!) horny.
But in the 21st century a new type of Dear John letter is popping up on bedside tables everywhere. It reads something like this: Dear John, I Love Jane — which also happens to be the title of the book I am recommending to you this week. Editors Candace Walsh and Laura Andre (who met on Match.com!) saw this emerging trend of women leaving men for women—experiencing it first hand, in Candace’s case—and decided to create an anthology of personal narratives regarding the popular phenomenon. Dear John, I Love Jane is the final, riveting product.
Perhaps women leaving men for women is a relatively new thing made possible by the women’s rights movement (i.e. women could earn their own money, no longer having to rely on men), but lesbian love affairs have transpired throughout all of history. Evidences of Sapphic scandals are tucked away in literature and art from the beginning of time; there is nothing new about the act. What’s new is the unabashed collective voice emerging on the topic. Today, these “fence-jumping” ladies are willing and proud to publicize their stories.
And good thing.
The 27 stories—even if you’ve never touched a man with a 10-foot pole, you gold star you!—offer relatable accounts of the coming out process. Because, as I’ve now learned, whether you’re coming out in high school or at age 70, the same struggles and the same feelings of liberation exist. As Dr. Lisa Diamond states in the book’s forward, these personal narratives will expand and deepen your understanding of women’s sexuality, no matter where you land on the sexuality spectrum.
The majority of the accounts are written by “latebians,” or women who have come to terms with their orientation toward women late in the game. (One of Dear John’s contributors fell in love with a woman for the first time at age 69!) That is not to say that most of them didn’t experience the tell-tale signs of dykehood from the get-go: possessive crushes on best girlfriends, that tingling feeling between their legs every time Angelina Jolie appeared on screen, their inexplicable love of flannel, etc.—these indicators we are all familiar with stitch themselves flawlessly across the pages. So what took them so long to face the truth? As far as I can see, these women were victims of the social pressure to be perfect, and masters of repression and self-denial.
Of course, that all changed when they met Jane, the accidental (and hella sexy) recruiter.
The one line nearly all the stories had in common—whether they outright said it or simply alluded to it—was, “I knew the moment she touched me for the first time that my life and views were forever changed.” This meaning 1) they finally felt at home, at peace, liberated and 2) they could forever say goodbye to the heterosexual privilege they had assumed for most their lives. As one woman admits, they knew what they were giving up–and it was always worth it.
With a title like Dear John, I Love Jane, I admit that I feared a Kissing Jessica Stein ending to these stories—you know, when the girl (so disappointingly!) really isn’t gay at all in the end. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and while all the stories are riddled with repression, denial and confusion, eventually excitement, acceptance and pride in their sexuality shines through. This book records that breakthrough and the collective sigh of relief that comes with finally living authentically, after a lifetime of not.
So. Now that you want to run out and buy the shit out of this book, I have to tell you: you can’t. Dear John, I Love Jane comes out for purchase this October, but we were so excited to get our hands on an advance copy that we thought we couldn’t help but provide some advanced buzz. –Krista Houstoun
"....There is pain and there is pleasure and I am sure it is similar to the feelings that I had when I came out as a gay Orthodox Jew and had to reconcile religion and sexuality. Once I did there was no turning back and I sealed the closet door behind me as I lit the Sabbath candles before going to services and then to a gay bar. It’s all about knowing and accepting who you are.
I admire the women whose stories are here and I admire the editors for putting this long overdue book together. Even as a man, I enjoyed the read." -Amos Lassen, Literary Pride
"Finding love can be a challenge. When you are a woman with children who is married to a man and you discover that you are in love with another women, life gets very complicated.
Dear John, I Love Jane is a collection of 27 coming out stories. The women span ages, continents and races, but they share a unique bond... they left heterosexual relationships to be with women.
....Dear John, I Love Jane is many things. It is about women with different experiences and different stories. But the common thread is about a journey and a process to self acceptance. To be sure it involves families and friends, husbands and children, but core to dealing with that aspect of accepting their sexuality all of the women had to first honestly accept who they were. When that happened the puzzle pieces began to fall into place.
The stories, written by the women themselves, some humorous, some heartbreaking, show how these women dealt with the questions and changes in their lives and where they are today... some with the same women, others still exploring.
As one woman says, 'You never know where love and honesty will take you.'" - Edie Stull, Examiner.com
Edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre, Dear John, I Love Jane is an original collection of essays that focuses on women who left their men for other women. It is about the fluidity of sexuality and the variety of experiences and realities represented in the term "queer woman."
In the foreword, Dr. Lisa M. Diamond, Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies and the author of Sexual Fluidity, begins with a bold claim: "This gripping collection of first-person narratives will undoubtedly expand and deepen your understanding of women's sexuality, whether you are gay, straight or somewhere in between." It's bold, but true.
The editors of the book, professional and life partners, have their own compelling back-stories, which they share in the introduction. While Andre never seriously dated men, Walsh is a divorced mother who spent most of her life as a "bona fide" heterosexual.
Similar to Walsh and Andre, the essays here encompass a genuinely wide range of voices from women of all different backgrounds—cultural, professional, and sexual. In "The Right Fit," Kami Day tells the story of growing up in the Mormon Church and how, after years of a stressful and sexually unfulfilling married, she finally came to terms with her attraction to other women. "I remember one day in particular: I was dressed in a denim maternity jumper and red knee socks, standing in the middle of the living room, contemplating driving to Corpus Christi to find a female prostitute." (If that quote doesn't get you to buy the book, I don't know what will).
In "Walking a Tightrope in High Heels," Michelle Renae recounts the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband Jo at a small, liberal arts university that catered to Evangelical Christians. Though her intimate life with her husband was initially strong, she soon found that her feelings for women were interfering with her marriage. Renae writes with insight about the challenges and reactions that she and Jo have faced since deciding to open their marriage.
Some of the other affecting essays include Libbie Miller's "Leap of Faith," which tells the story of how she dealt with coming out to a husband she genuinely loved for years, and is now deployed in Iraq. In "Watershed," Veronica Masen explains why she decided not to leave her husband and family for a woman that she fell in love with. "So now I am in limbo. I am celibate, and introspective, and shell shocked… There are days I know I am a lesbian, that I always have been and always will be, but for now I am choosing not to honor that part of myself purely out of a sense of responsibility and loyalty to my family."
Our own Trish Bendix offers one of the lighter essays with "Credit in the Un-Straight World," a humorous take on how her first crush on a girl forced her to reconsider her late blooming sexual identity: "My subconscious had no plans to bed a man. My conscious mind said I'm just not that kind of girl. The thing is, I'm totally that kind of girl. I'm just that kind of girl for a girl."
Dear John, I Love Jane is an engaging, important and thoughtfully edited collection. Highly recommended. - Heather Aimee O'Neill, AfterEllen.com
This new collection of stories is written by those who do not realize they love women until after their adult lives are already established. Well-written, heartfelt, and full of good cheer, these stories remind those of us who take being gay for granted that people who come out late should be respected for what they walked away from rather than scorned for arriving late. This wonderful volume is not so much a collection of coming-out-late-in-life stories as a testament to the powers of love and personal authenticity. - Angel Curtis, OutSmart Magazine
Dear John, I Love Jane is a collection of 27 stories by women who all have one thing in common: they left men for women. Just like I did.
I struggled with my own feelings of attraction to women over the course of my ten-year marriage. I have described the struggle as trying to hold a beach ball underwater. From the surface everything looked fine, and if I kept my position just right no one could see me holding that ball still. I lived in fear of making even the smallest change in my footing, which would result in the beach ball shooting up through the surface of the water and then everyone would know. And everyone would get wet.
It didn’t mean I was unhappy. Sure, I could have lived like that forever. Sometimes I held my breath, but sometimes I was fine. Overall, I just felt numb.
You can imagine the relief and camaraderie I felt when reading these stories. I saw myself in every one of them. Finally, I was understood! I’m not a freak! There are (many!) other women who felt the same way.
These women put all their cards on the table, knowing they might win big but could also lose everything, and were brave enough to play that hand anyway.
In addition to the foreword by Dr. Lisa M. Diamond, each story speaks to the concept of sexual fluidity; something women have known for ages but society is just catching on to. The women also describe being looked at with a suspicious eye by the larger gay community, as if we are simply ‘trying on’ our gayness.
These stories are fascinating, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. I highly recommend this book. Go buy it today. - TheNewGay.net
....Dear John, I Love Jane is a Molotov cocktail lobbed into the divide between gay and straight, and the fire it ignites illuminates the complexities of what it means to define oneself as gay or straight.... (Click here to read more) - Rob Proehl, The Ithaca Post
....Recently published by Seal Press, an imprint of Perseus, this collection explores the stories and relationships of women who summoned the fortitude to leave heterosexual relationships in pursuit of lesbian partners and same-sex love affairs.... (Click here to read more) - The Ithaca Post
This is the time of year when we traditionally give thanks for the wonderful things that surround us, for our family and friends who love and support us, and for the hope of things to come. This year, I am thankful for Dear John, I Love Jane now available from Seal Press. This amazing read, full of poignant letters and stories detailing that moment when girl meets girl and everything else fades away, had me laughing, crying, and recalling my own moment of realization when everything that I had been feeling finally clicked and I knew I was meant to love women... (Click here to read more) - CherryGrrl.com
In a new collection of true stories about straight women turning lesbian, all of the women are, and were, married to extraordinarily kind, supportive husbands. Laura Andre, co-editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, points out that these women are “living proof that sexuality can change over time, often against our will. The women in this book didn’t set out to dismantle their marriages and relationships; the last thing they wanted was to hurt their husbands or boyfriends.” (Click here to read more) - MacLean's
The 27 essays in this brave new collection do more than push the envelope -- they rip it open. The Isle of Lesbos, we learn is visited not only by Sappho and Ellen. Mormons, Baptists, wives, mothers, those who have questioned their identity in passing and the heretofore adamantly hetersexual offer personal narratives that spin around the core idea of sexual fluidity. Get ready for honest, intimate, funny, painful and surprising new answers to old questions." - Valley Haggard, Belle / Style Weekly