This book warmed the cockles of my heart. There, I said it. Never thought I would use that cheesy phrase in my life, for a book review at that. But I cannot think of anything better to say, so shoot me. However, I would like to get a hug from author Kai Cheng Thom (and a few other authors) for writing this fabulous memoir before I die. If she ever ends up reading this, I sense her first thought would probably be “NO fucking way, I’ll stab you in the eye if you try hugging me, you weird stranger”. Oh well…

‘Fierce Femmes & Notorious Liars’ – A Trans Girls’ Confabulous Memoir offers readers a surreal blend of dark realistic themes mixed with fantasy fiction elements in a way that one cannot distinguish fiction from reality and it does not matter. It’s filled with poetry, violence, female friendships, love and despair. Written in first person, it starts off with the protagonist recalling events that led her into running away from home as a teen – she was born in a boy’s body and her parents would’ve preferred she remained trapped in it.

What follows next is a world of amazing trans women who save her from becoming just another battered runaway begging on the streets. The majority of the story unfolds in a place called ‘The Street of Miracles’, which smacks of irony, because even though it’s a place where trans people are able to rediscover themselves and make a living, it’s also where they get murdered and the cops couldn’t care less.

“Does the street shelter us or sacrifice us? And what’s the difference?”

That’s one of the most poignant lines the novel, explaining the double-edged nature of the street. The protagonist soon joins a vigilante group nicknamed “Lipstick Lacerators”, whose mission is to avenge their murdered sisters and strike fear in the hearts of malevolent men. Despite their insecurities, jealousies and egos, the women come together for a cause and it makes the reader deeply dwell on the goodness of the human-heart, regardless of however flawed it might be. All the characters in author Kai Cheng Thom’s world are never apologetic about who they are. From Kimaya, the woman with a heart of gold who helps rehabilitate runaway trans girls, to the bad-ass bald-headed Valaria who incites her sisters into forming a killer wolf-pack, each femme is a fabulous shade of their own.

The writing style is very conversational and the language is quite simple too, as if the writer is penning a long letter to someone. In-fact, the chapters are also interspersed with letters the protagonist writes to her younger sister. These letters, although not very personal, reflect a strong bond between the blood-sisters who no longer share the same roof. And all the ‘grammar nazis’ of the world will have to soften their snottiness when they read it, because some rules are bent at a lot of places. Large chunks of the novel read like long-form poetry and well, there are no rules for poetry-writing are they?

In the beginning of the novel, Kai Cheng Thom promises she is going to give the reader a story that’s unlike any of the 11,378 transgender memoirs out there that makes them sound ‘dead, boring and safe’. She delivers just that. It may not have been a book that I couldn’t resist putting down and took me 3 days to finish; but it’s the kind you want to savor little by little and not hungrily devour all at once.

It’s a 5/5 from me.

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Listen to Episode 36 for our interview with Afghan-American author Nemat Sadat.