Lambda Literary Award Finalist
Transgender indie electronica singer-songwriter Rae Spoon has six albums to their credit, including 2012's I Can't Keep All of Our Secrets. This first book by Rae (who uses "they" as a pronoun) is a candid, powerful story about a young person growing up queer in a strict Pentecostal family in Alberta.
The narrator attends church events and Billy Graham rallies faithfully with their family before discovering the music that becomes their salvation and means of escape. As their father's schizophrenia causes their parents' marriage to unravel, the narrator finds solace and safety in the company of their siblings, in their nascent feelings for a girl at school, and in their growing awareness that they are not the person their parents think they are. With a heart as big as the prairie sky, this is a quietly devastating, heart-wrenching coming-of-age book about escaping dogma, surviving abuse, finding love, and risking everything for acceptance.
From First Spring Grass Fire:
I would stare at the slivers of the Rocky Mountains that I could see from my bunk bed and imagine crawling over them like they were tiny pebbles to the ocean. I would look into the clouds for messages that confirmed my doubts and found nothing--just a huge God-filled sky over the dry grass on Nose Hill, brown after the snow had melted and waiting for a cigarette to set the first spring grass fire.
Spare and gorgeous as the prairies until it turns, wildly, into lushness in Spoon's capable strumming hands. I did not think we needed another "growing up different" book, but I've never been more delighted to be proved wrong. First Spring Grass Fire cements Spoon's reputation as a master of the lively arts.
-S. Bear Bergman, author of Butch is a Noun
Through plain but effective language and delicate, wry humour, this collection of linked short stories approaches coming of age as an act of incredible empowerment ... Deceptively simple yet wise, First Spring Grass Fire has a universal appeal because it gently draws attention to the sweetly unadorned details of being human.
The prose is concise without ornamentation; emotionally moving because of its raw honesty. The book holds together because it is an amalgamation of all the little things in life which hurt us, binds us, and propel us to move forward. While issues of gender and sexuality certainly underline the majority of the narrator's existential despair, the book works because it pushes the reader to understand the humanity of the narrator rather than simply a trans or lesbian narrative. It demonstrates the commonality of grief, loss, fear, pain, love, and longing.
What I love most about Rae's debut novel is that it is completely accessible to young teenagers as well as those who will no doubt want to read it because they have followed Rae's prolific musical career over the last decade or so. And what a good thing too - if anyone needs to read this, ultimately deeply hopeful book, it is queer youth and their allies.
-Diva Magazine (UK)
A personal narrative that is as sincere as it is pulverizing ... As a coming-of-age novel, First Spring Grass Fire is one of the most honest and most brutal. With emotional passages about abuse and long-winded tales of attempts at safety and pride, it's one more well-suited for queers than the kind we grew up with; less about men in cars driving to their eventual emancipation and more about what it's like to be completely surrounded and stuck and make it out in one piece anyway. It's a unique story with a common heart.
First Spring Grass Fire will be meaningful to anyone who has struggled to fit in - and who hasn't? By telling these stories - of being different, queer, raised in a rigid belief system you didn't choose, trying to be yourself within circumstances you can't control - Rae Spoon illustrates the triumph in reclaiming and controlling your own identity. This moving collection is a story of what we do to find a place, physical or intangible, that we can call home.
For anyone who has felt as though a silent revolution was burning inside of them, First Spring Grass Fire will stoke those flames and, as Spoon so romantically puts it, leave behind a lush green landscape of refreshed vitality.
Rae Spoon is definitely more than a songwriter to swoon for; I predict that First Spring Grass Fire will be a curative for all the heartbroken kids in small towns trying to fight for their right to be who they are. This collection of tender-hearted coming-of-age stories is an impressive literary gem.
-Zoe Whittall, author of Holding Still for as Long as Possible
A remarkable debut novel.
A heartbreaking, fictionalized, short-story memoir.
An intensely personal, darkly funny, and stunningly honest book, First Spring teeters on the border between fiction and memoir, oscillating between a 'real' past and an alternative history that might have been.
Complete with themes of music and religion, First Spring Grass Fire is an honest, hopeful coming-of-age novel. -The Guardian
The thing about Rae Spoon's storytelling style is that it sneaks up on you: powerful and plain-spoken, but sly and subtle as well. It wasn't until the end of many of Spoon's sentences that I realized I had just been emotionally stomach-punched, and from the side, too. This book is brave and blasphemous, and shines just like Rae Spoon's songwriting does: beautiful, haunting words delivered by a truly one-of-a-kind voice.
-Ivan E. Coyote, author of Missed Her
There are moments of near-poetry in their work ... [and] also a rawness and urgency. I highly, highly recommend this one.
Transgender indie musician Rae Spoon has six albums under the belt, but this raw and beautifully lyrical new memoir-meets-novel about growing up queer in a strict Pentecostal famly with a schizophrenic father is the best contribution yet.
The writing itself is confident: spare but not cryptic, straightfoward but not blunt. There is none of the self-consciousness of a first-time author; First Spring Grass Fire is an effortless read.