Rae Spoon is a transgender musician/writer/workshop facilitator who has been nominated for a Polaris Prize, released six solo albums, toured internationally, and now has published their first book, First Spring Grass Fire, in September, 2012 with Arsenal Pulp Press.
First Spring Grass Fire is a collection of relating short stories inspired by coming of age as queer and transgender in Calgary, Alberta. Each story encompasses a moment worth remembering for the narrator – whether it be a moment of hope for a world outside of the narrator’s evangelical family, or a realization of a new piece of their own identity. The book jumps all over the timeline and delivers the narrator’s very personal, vulnerable inner dialogue along the way.
The narrator, Rae, knows from a young age that they are different; they struggle with being comfortable in their own skin and being accepted socially. Rae attends church in spite of constant doubts and experiences a power struggle with their father who has schizophrenia. Between stories of surviving abuse, self-harm, religion, finding love, and self-acceptance – it’s impossible not to relate to one of these stories, and reconsider the effect that the experience has had on your own identity.
While First Spring Grass Fire is categorized as fiction, the narrator shares Spoon’s first name and the writing draws from their life experiences.
“My own identity is based on a narrative I am constantly revising for myself, so I see fiction and nonfiction as things that inform each other. I do believe the cliché that people write the best about what they know and I’ve tried to stick to that without being too specific about my actual history,” says Spoon.
Rae—in the book—expects that the completion of high school will be the end of their struggles. Instead, their girlfriend goes off to university, they break up, and Rae learns that adulthood doesn’t come easily either. Rae concentrates on writing music and eventually moves from Calgary to Vancouver. They attempt to grow a new history but come to the realization that their past is responsible for constructing the identity that they have now.
“The narrator [ . . . ] has a difficult childhood, but there is always the possibility of escape,” says Spoon. “I think the message of survival and acceptance is important. Also, finding something to be passionate about and live for in spite of loss.”
Rae Spoon is currently on tour promoting their new book and playing music. You can see them at the Mondragon on Friday, Oct. 19 or at McNally Robinson Booksellers (Grant Park) on Saturday, Oct. 20.