Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Emma Watson picks 'Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir' for Our Shared Shelf

[Version française]

Had been a while since Emma was the one to pick and write the message about the book on Our Shared Shelf.

Buy the book on Amazon (affiliated link)

"Kai Cheng Thom, our next Our Shared Shelf author, describes herself as “a spoken word performer, lasagna lover, wicked witch, and community worker based in Toronto, Canada, a city that stands on unceded Indigenous territory.”

As if that isn't enough to make you curious… It's the book cover of her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir that draws you in. It just LOOKS like a fun adventure. And indeed, it walks the tightrope between contradictions - serious and fun, fantasy and reality, poetry and prose, memoir and fiction, delicate and violent.

Set in the Street of Miracles, our protagonist (who happens to be a kung-fu expert and pathological liar) joins a gang of glamorous warrior femmes. It’s a story of broken hearts and healing sisterhoods. Thom says:

"The basic idea for Fierce Femmes was to create a loving homage
and critical re-imagining of the transgender memoir genre. For many
generations, trans writers have been pigeonholed into writing memoirs
that are intended to educate cis people about the reality of trans life.
They were denied opportunities to publish in more creative and
fantastical ways. Fierce Femmes is a response to all that, and a
role reversal of the stereotypically, tragic portrayal of trans women
characters - rather than simply experiencing the violence of a
transphobic world passively, my characters dare to fight back,
even when it takes them down some morally questionable paths."

Kai Cheng Thom weaves a story complete with mermaids, killer bees, kingdoms, ghosts and battles! Fairy tales like King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table captured my imagination as a child…the aliveness of Ovid’s Metamorphoses stories still resonate for me. I love that Thom uses both the otherworldly and the story archetypes of mysticism and transformation we know so well to tell us something new.

Many of us have been encouraged to see gender as binary. In some languages even inanimate objects are gendered! But you wouldn’t try and gender a unicorn, would you? It’s just a unicorn. I love that this book makes us transcend the ordinary and therefore transcend the usual dogma and boundaries our past makes us hold on to.

Naming the protagonist a notorious liar makes me think about the unreliable or mythical narrator…if the past is a tactile thing, we have the power to shape our stories, not just to others, but to ourselves. If we can reimagine our past, we can re-mold it; decide which truths we digest and interpret as being ours and which ones we can disregard. We can use metaphors, shapes and symbols to make our pain less of an unknown entity…less slippery. Does this give us more agency? I love the idea that not telling the story accurately or by rote might hold more of the truth of the experience in it for us.

With Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, you really get the sense of creativity and invention that comes from becoming your own woman - an artist of your own identity. It may be a natural inclination to be nervous of what we do not know. Here is an author who builds us another world, expanding our view. This is a privilege. This is writing at its best. Enjoy being touched by the sparkle, warmth, community, violence and fierceness of the world Kai Cheng Thom has created.



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