Roar by Shelley Thompson

There are a lot of things to love about Nova Scotia and there are a lot of things that can infuriate you. The beaches are lovely, and the nature will astound you. But don’t forget about the low wages or the often closed-minded and unaware attitudes of people in rural communities. Is it because they don’t know any better or do they really live with hate in their heart? Shelley Thompson tackles this topic with grace in her new book, Roar.

In Roar, we have Dawn, coming home for her mother’s funeral, and as herself for the first time. See Dawn has been away for five years, escaping the judgements and opinions of her small town in rural Nova Scotia to find out who she really is in Toronto, Montreal and then finally finding her community and chosen family in Halifax.

Dawn was born as Donald, but that is not who she really is or ever was. Dawn’s mother, Miranda, had been a part of Dawn’s life for the last few years, as they established their own meaningful relationship in Halifax when Miranda would come for cancer treatment. Miranda has met Dawn’s community and grew into a powerful and loving ally to her daughter. But Miranda hasn’t told Dawn’s sister and father, and the secret never comes out before Miranda passes. 

So, when Dawn returns to her small town for the first time since she left to attend her mother’s funeral, she also meets her father and sister and her sister’s fiancé, Bryon for the first time as who she is.

This novel is told from multiple viewpoints and works to show how each person is struggling through their grief and the newness of their situation. No one is perfect, but everyone underneath it all has love. Love and trying to understand, trying to come together again as a family. 

This is a powerful novel, based on some of Thompson’s real experiences. She writes with decorum on this difficult subject at a time when we need it most. People need to accept each other and support each other but people need to have grace as well and be willing to give things time. Dawn’s father struggles with her change, but he tries, and we must acknowledge this trying. “It wasn’t perfect. On anywhere near. But it was better than indifference.”

There is pain in this book, there are people who don’t understand Dawn, people who deliberately try to hurt her. Thompson writes with heart and reality and sometimes the words hurt to read. But that’s the thing about trans people, this is their reality sometimes, and I think we are all better off knowing about their experiences. People need to be allowed to live for who they really are. We see the community come together and allow new people to exist and slowly but surely love winning. 

This is a book of hope, a book of healing and a book of building connection and community. This is the book we need now more than ever, a book that needs to be celebrated and read. Understanding and connection go a long, long way. This book is a great place to start if you have not had a lot of experience with the trans community and Thompson’s writing is approachable and tackles many difficult emotions with love and respect. 

Shelley Thompson is an actor, screenwriter, and activist based in Wolfville, in Mi’kma’ki (NS). ROAR is her first novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vagrant Press (Oct. 31 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774712369
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774712368