No Previous Experience
I am always on the lookout for Canadian authors I have yet to discover. It was while reading a fellow blog called ChickLiteracy that I became intrigued by my next new find, Elspeth Cameron.
Now, this author is by no means new to the world of Canadian non-fiction or biographies or academia, no, Elspeth is simply new to me. Having authored such biographies as Robertson Davies: An Appreciation, The Other Side of Hugh MacLennan and Irving Layton, A Portrait (I have reserved the latter, it shall be my next read), she manages to tell her very own life story with ease. I was absorbed in this book from the start and finished it the next day.
No Previous Experience is an intriguing and engaging personal memoir by Elspeth Cameron about self love, which she discovers rather late in life (not unlike me). This life account is a gripping and honest story about turning your back on the socially constructed expectations and really finding your happiness. For Elspeth this is discovered through a relationship with someone who is her intellectual and emotional equal and who also happens to be a woman.
Although this story is most known for the ‘coming out’ of Elspeth Cameron, for me it was less about the lesbian relationship and more about, well, the relationship. She fell in love with someone. She struggled with judgment and self doubt and a myriad of other outside forces that whispered their interference. She was still married at the time to her third husband. She stayed in this abusive relationship to her husband, managed to get out, but then returned, full of hope. This, for me, is likely the strongest element of the book that I related to, for I, too, have had such relationships. I, too, have either stayed out of fear, or left and then returned, only to find that this was a mistake. It was after reading this book that I was able to see that it was hope, not weakness, that made me return, and it was time for me to let that go. There was just something about reading that lesson, sharing it with the author, that empowered me.
Elspeth Cameron is reminded, and in turn reminds the reader, to cherish female friendships, to hold them closer than any others. In the book, Janice Dickin McGinnis is this life changing female friend and she says to Elspeth,
“Our society is set up to keep women from connecting. We’re all trained to think catching a man is a big deal. Says who? It’s men who want to get married. Women are the ones who sue for divorce. In 80 percent of cases these days. I think. As long as we buy into this, women will view other women only as competitors for the big prize. Divide and rule. That’s what the patriarchy has managed to accomplish. Behind this, of course, is a tremendous fear of the power of women.”
A strong message delivered with courage and honesty, I recommend to you No Previous Experience.