Vancouver, Canada-based Tara Sidhoo Fraser's lyrical debut, When My Ghost Sings, is an experimental literary recounting of the experience of undergoing a stroke and relearning daily skills while supporting a gender-transitioning partner. In November 2014, Fraser, age 32, suffered a brain bleed caused by an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. Doctors deemed the AVM inoperable because of its size, so an embolization was performed instead.
Those are the facts, presented in a few paragraphs in the introduction. The remainder of the memoir, however, is often deliberately hazy and dream-like in an effort to mimic her disorientation. In fact, Fraser splits herself into two characters: the "I," moving through life, and "Ghost," her memory repository. Ghost is impish and stubborn, wanting everything to remain exactly the same. But "I can't rely only on Ghost's mental postcards," Fraser thinks, and so she sets out to retrieve evidence of who she was and is. This involves finding "the boy," her former partner, who accompanied her to the hospital and during her early recovery. Like her current fiancé, Jude, he had hormone shots to begin a gender transition; those journeys play out in parallel.
Fraser's search for herself, and her partners' determination to be true to who they are, take on the epic dimensions of Greek mythology. This is a heroine's quest, unfolding mostly on Vancouver Island and in Seattle. Scenes are built around echoes and contradictions of the past. Set in the wake of medical catastrophe, this is a startling memoir about queer identity and laying the ghosts of the past to rest. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck