Yesterday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance; an important day to mourn, to hold vigil, and to remember those who have been lost to transphobia and violence. But it is also an important day to commit to a building a better world for all throughout the rest of the year.
To do that, we all need to take the time to grow our understanding of each other, to learn each other’s stories. So, if you are looking for something to read these other 364 days of the year to help with that, below are eleven books by trans, two-spirit and gender diverse Canadian authors worth checking out. They’re in no particular order and all more recently published books.
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) – by Hazel Jane Plante
I said in no particular order, but put this one first for a reason. It is a beautiful book in every way; the cover, the layout, the illustrations, the writing.
It centres the story of a queer trans woman’s loss of her straight trans friend. The unique format is pulled off perfectly; an actual encyclopedia for a fictional tv show, where each chapter is a letter of the alphabet, creating a quirky yet hilarious look at grief for a lost friend and unrequited love. It perfectly captures love, friendship and the road to healing.
Hazel Jane Plante is clearly a genius, given the in-depth, imaginative world she has created inside this book. Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) will charm you. Give it a go.
For more on this great book check out, ‘We need delight to keep us going’: an interview with Hazel Jane Plante.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom
A Trans Memoir that definitely blows apart the genre. There’s truth to be found amongst the beautiful, creative, and fantastical storytelling.
All I can say is this is one of the most unique and fun books I’ve read in a very long time.
I can’t possibly summarize this book better than the publisher did themselves:
“In Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, a haunted young girl (who happens to be a kung-fu expert and pathological liar) runs away from an oppressive city where the sky is always grey in search of love and sisterhood—and finds herself in a magical place known only as the Street of Miracles.”
Little Fish by Casey Plett
I happened to wander in to Glad Day Books on the day of a book launch for this author’s debut novel, so I grabbed a copy on a whim. Inside was the story of Wendy Reimer, a trans woman who discovers her Mennonite grandfather may have also been trans.
The writing is real and very raw to read. Through the good and the bad, I felt I was right there with Wendy, stumbling along through a cold wintery Winnipeg. At points striking, at others devastating it is definitely a read you won’t forget.
Small Beauty by jia qing Wilson-yang
The story of Mei, a mixed-race trans woman who leaves the city for a small town in an attempt to deal with her grief and reflect on her life. While there she ends up learning more about her family secrets and the local history.
I don’t want to give anything more away. A small book with only 150 pages, this made for a great weekend read. It is not a book I’ve seen on the shelves in many stores, so I am grateful to my friend Laura for telling me about this book, and then lending it to me! If you can’t find it elsewhere it’s available online direct from the publisher.
SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGIES
Love Beyond Body, Space & Time edited by Hope Nicholson
Love Beyond Body, Space & Time is a “collection of Indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters”.
There are 11 stories contained in this anthology, including some by better-known Indigenous authors such as Cherie Dimaline and Richard Van Camp.
I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. This is a beautiful book. The characters are great. The stories are fun and thoughtful. If you like sci-fi, Indigenous history and/or LGBTQ2S characters this book is definitely for you.
Love After The End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead
And if you want even more sci-fi, this brand new release brought together by Jonny Appleseed author Joshua Whitehead is a treat. Love After The End contains nine more speculative fiction stories by a diversity of Indigenous authors from across Turtle Island.
They’re fun, they’re powerful, and filled with love while giving you a chance to reflect on our settler colonial past while thinking in to the future. It had some bumps on the road to getting published but I’m sure glad it did!
The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care – Edited by Zena Sharman
Sure, much of Canada has come a long way on queer and trans rights in recent years, but we still have a lot of work to do. So, if you’re serious about creating an inclusive health care system that actually builds healthy LGBTQ2S communities, then read this anthology. An even more crucial read if you work in health care.
You will hear directly from the experiences of a wide diversity of Queer and Trans folks navigating all aspects of the health care system, as well as a few essays from health care workers and providers. The essays are well written and reflective. You will learn a lot.
I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom
After being blown away by reading Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, I was excited to read Kai Cheng Thom’s non-fiction debut, a collection of personal essays released last year.
“So in the midst of despair, I have come to believe that love – the feeling of love, the politics of love, the ethics and ideology and embodiment of love – is the only option in this time of the apocalypse. What else do we have?”
Kai Cheng Thom never holds back, and I appreciate that. These essays are deeply honest and personal. They tackle tough, important issues while also pointing to a hopeful way forward. Given our new COVID-19 reality, in many ways, the title and theme of this book are even more timely then when it was written.
It is not contained in the book, but this recent COVID-19 piece in Xtra from Kai Cheng Thom is definitely worth a read too.
First Spring Grass Fire by Rae Spoon
Written back in 2012, I finally got around to reading the first book from the fabulous singer-songwriter Rae Spoon. Inside is a queer and musical coming of age. It is an autobiography told through their personal stories and experiences of growing up queer and trans in a conservative Pentecostal Alberta home.
This book was written in preparation for the creating of the feature film My Prairie Home, a documentary-musical looking at Rae’s life. You can watch it for free on the National Film Board website – another great place to find free entertainment during this time of physical distancing!
Soar, Adam, Soar by Rick Prashaw with Adam Prashaw
As told by Rick Prashaw while incorporating his son Adam’s own words, this book is deeply personal and very well written. Gender identity, living with medical illness (epilepsy), family, life, death and organ donation are important themes in this book.
A touching tribute of a loving father to his son. Reading Soar, Adam, Soar caused both smiles and tears. The description on the back summarizes it perfectly:
In Soar, Adam, Soar, his father, a former priest, retells Adam’s story alongside his son’s own words. From early childhood, through coming out first as a lesbian and then as a man, and his battles with epilepsy and refusal to give in, it chronicles Adam’s drive to define himself, his joyful spirit, and his love of life, which continues to conquer all.
Rebent Sinner By Ivan Coyote
Every new Ivan Coyote book I say ‘this may be their best book yet!”. I will say it again for Rebent Sinner.
Ivan is a powerful storyteller. With tenderness, patience, humour, and honesty, Ivan brings both the personal and political to life, all through sharing their own stories about everyday life.
Stories have the power to bring us together. They create common bonds and bring people in. If you’ve never read Ivan’s work this is a good place to start. If you’re wanting more definitely check out Tomboy Survival Guide.