Wain by Rachel Plummer
Published by The Emma Press, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
As a queer parent, Plummer was disappointed by the lack of representation for families like theirs in her daughter’s beloved fairy tales. Thus, the idea for Wain was born: a collection of poems that reimagine the traditional folktales of Scotland from the perspective of LGBT+ characters.
I was so pleased to see how inclusive of the queer community this collection actually is. Many books that claim to be proud “LGBT” reads represent one or two of those letters at best. In Wain, Plummer presents us with characters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary, as well as those who don’t ascribe to any clear category, and all in a sensitive, normalized way that avoids the need for labels.
Deliberately written to be engaging for teens, the poems are highly accessible from a linguistic, structural, and rhythmic perspective. While this means they rarely wowed me as an adult reader, they were still well crafted and charming. On the whole, I adored the collection for its narrative content and thematic intention.
My favourite individual piece was Green Lady. Inspired by the stories of green-hued ghosts that are said to haunt Scottish castles and manor homes as a mark of familial secrets, Plummer reimagines one such ghost as a trans woman, utilising evocative colour-based imagery, with subtle, tragic implications adding real pathos and power to the poem’s deeper meaning.
Helene Boppert (who is also openly queer) provides stunning watercolour illustrations that make the book truly sing. Suitably otherworldly and ethereal in honour of the stories’ fantastical undertones, it’s likely no coincidence that she employs a vivid rainbow spectrum of colour throughout her chosen palette.
Representation is so important. It’s wonderful that this book exists, brought to life by two own-voice queer creatives, so that LGBT+ teens, adults, and families can see themselves reflected in the kind of stories we’re all brought up on, but which so often fail to acknowledge them.