Plett, Casey. “Little Fish”, Arsenal Pulp, 2018.
All in the Family
Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who finds out that her late grandfather who was a devout Mennonite farmer might also have been transgender himself. She pushes that knowledge to the side because of more pressing problems but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their lives (including alcoholism, sex work and suicide) Wendy returns to what she can find out about her grandfather’s life and is determined to know the truth. This is the story of a transgender woman whose “past and future become irrevocably entwined”.
Set in the very cold winter in Winnipeg and Wendy feels a bit like the weather, frozen. Then she gets an unexpected phone call from a distant family friend who shares a shocking secret about Wendy’s Opa (grandfather) might have been transgender himself. At first she pays no attention to it but uses it as an escape from the craziness of her life and she wants to know the truth and is determined to get to it. There are many details here and these help to make the characters real. There are times when we feel. Wendy’s pain, especially when she was made fun of. and not being who she feels she is.
“Little Fish” is actually a character study and a brutally raw one at that. It looks into the lives of trans women and shares their lives and this is much more than a look at transitioning. We see trans women living their lives as women with difficult families, struggling with mental health issues, working as sex workers, community builders, and more. It is beautifully written and from the first page we are drawn into the lives of the characters.