A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett

Casey Plett's 2018 novel Little Fish won a Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Amazon First Novel Award (Canada). Her latest work, A Dream of a Woman, is her first book of short stories since her seminal 2014 collection A Safe Girl to Love. Centering transgender women seeking stable, adult lives, A Dream of a Woman finds quiet truths in prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, and in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days. 

In "Hazel and Christopher," two childhood friends reconnect as adults after one of them has transitioned. In "Perfect Places," a woman grapples with undesirability as she navigates fetish play with a man. In "Couldn't Hear You Talk Anymore," the narrator reflects on past trauma and what might have been as she recalls tender moments with another trans woman. 

An ethereal meditation on partnership, sex, addiction, romance, groundedness, and love, the stories in A Dream of a Woman buzz with quiet intensity and the intimate complexities of being human.

PUBLISHER: Bespeak Audio Editions
YEAR: 2022
LENGTH: 277 pages (9 hours 6 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Literary

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s), Trans Main Character(s), Closeted/Questioning Main Character(s).

I am familiar with framing devices in short story collections, but the second time "Absolution" appeared I was surprised because I thought it had been a one-off story of a person navigating a relationship and the possibility that it wasn’t quite what he wanted. Then, a couple of stories later, "Absolution" appeared again with the next chapter of his life. It formed a refrain, a transformational core, running through the heart of this collection, allowing for a slow unfolding and twisting of story in a single character. I let each of the various segments of what eventually is her life get to stand alone, having room to breathe, allowing for a transformation across decades in a way that would normally be harder to get across in a short story. There are many ways of being trans, and of being a trans woman. Most of these stories focus on trans women navigating relationships and interpersonal interactions in a way that’s very focused on their underlying thoughts and feelings to whatever degree they’re able to process or express them. Some stories take place over years or even decades, and others occur in just a few days. 

Some of the stories convey the shifting weirdness of existing in a body that changes in ways which other people aren’t expecting, and the range of reactions to that reality. People living lives that are shaped by this thing that they have in common, told in a manner that allows for meandering meandering and blurriness around the edges. This is an absorbing and fascinating collection, and I highly recommend it.

"Hazel and Christopher" - Moderate CW for grief, sexual content, alcohol, alcoholism, homophobia, transphobia, lesbophobia, violence. Minor CW for vomit, suicide, parental death, death.

"Absolution" - Moderate CW for cursing, sexual content, sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia, alcohol, vomit, drug use.

"Perfect Places" - Graphic CW for sexual content. Moderate CW for dysmorphia, dysphoria, transphobia. Minor CW for vomit.

“Couldn’t Hear You Talk Anymore” - Moderate CW for transphobia, misgendering, alcohol, eating disorder, self harm, suicide attempt. 

“Rose City, City of Roses” - Moderate CW for grief, sexual content, pandemic, death.

“Enough Trouble” - Graphic CW for sexual content, alcohol, alcoholism. Minor CW for transphobia, war, rape.

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