The Next Chapter

Casey Plett's short story collection A Dream of a Woman centres truth and transgender women

The American-based Canadian author spoke with Shelagh Rogers about her latest work.
A Dream of a Woman is a short story collection by Casey Plett. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

For Casey Plett, place and location is central to her life and work. The Canadian writer was born in Manitoba and has lived in Ontario, Oregon and New York. Plett's lens on location and identity is reflected in her novel Little Fish, which won a Lambda Literary Award, Amazon First Novel Award and the Firecracker Award for Fiction. Her first short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, was published in 2014.

Plett returns to the short story form with A Dream of a Woman, a book which finds quiet truths in Prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days. The collection of short stories explores partnership, sexuality, addiction, romance and love. 

Plett spoke with Shelagh Rogers about how A Dream of a Woman came to be.

Transformational and transcendent

"You could look at the book's title, A Dream of a Woman, as being about dysphoria, specifically in transgender women. But that's not really what the title means: A Dream of a Woman ends up being something about these characters who are grasping for more stable adult lives that don't really come through. 

"Much of the book focuses around romance and relationships and sex. Specifically, in the penultimate story of the book, [a character] says, 'She wants to look perfect. She open the door and see a dream of a woman looking back at her.'

Much of the book focuses around romance and relationships and sex.

"So it's also about these women who have relationships with each other and how they are hoping that their lovers see them."

A transition narrative

"A Dream of a Woman is the first time I've ever written a transition narrative. I have plenty of written plenty of  transgender women in my fiction, but usually after they have changed names and pronouns — we meet them after that's happened. I have often been very frustrated with how these narratives are portrayed in the media and frustrated with how grand or cheesy they can sometimes be.

"When the pronouns change, it just all of a sudden happens very matter-of-factly; there's no attention drawn to it. It just happens. And the reason I did that was to signify when this person conceives of themself this way, and it's this internal, very quiet inner process. 

"I was not interested in when she all of a sudden starts saying, 'Hey, I want you to refer to me this way. I would like you to call me this.' I didn't want to show that. I wanted to show where all of a sudden she starts thinking of herself more with she/her pronouns than with he/him pronouns."

Location, location, location

"I have moved around a lot in my life. I'm very interested in writing work that takes place in very specific locales, but that hopefully don't trip over themselves trying to be local. Windsor, Ont., remains sort of a newly adopted home. It's the only place in Canada that looks north onto the United States, among other things. 

I have often been very frustrated with how these narratives are portrayed in the media and frustrated with how grand or cheesy they can sometimes be.

"I'm interested in how, when people live in a certain city, people talk to each other about the landmarks of that city, in ways that a newcomer would not.

What's next

"Writing A Dream of a Woman  took a lot out of me. This is usual for me: When I finish a book, I tend to kind of give fiction writing a bit of a breather. After I finished my first two books, I would tell myself, 'I'm done writing books, trying to figure out my life! Time to get my life in order.'

"After this third one, I think I'm a little wise to that —  I know there's probably going to be more books on the way. What they'll be, I don't know."

Casey Plett's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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