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A Safe Girl to Love

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,136 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love.

These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will i
Paperback, 229 pages
Published May 2014 by Topside Press
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  1,136 ratings  ·  162 reviews

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You'd think that with how much I read this would be old hat by now, but I always get a little bit anxious when a friend publishes something. What if it isn't good? What if I don't like it? How do you walk that line between supporting their work and wanting to be honest about your opinion of their work? I've lost a lot of sleep over how to review books of this sort, that complex dance of criticism, the "well i liked this aspect, but this and this felt like they were superfluous" waltz of carefull ...more
Oh my god, I FUCKING LOVED THIS BOOK. Full review to come!!

Here's the review!

Around this time last year, I read an amazing debut short story collection by Nancy Jo Cullen that I raved about, saying it was the best fiction I’d read all year. There must be something in the air in late July, because I just read Winnipegger Casey Plett’s book A Safe Girl to Love—also a debut short story collection—and I just fucking loved it. In fact, both books share a keen sense of place, an authentic, diverse hum
Kaleb Fischer
Aug 01, 2015 rated it liked it
While this book attempts to convey the diversity of transfeminine experience, it doesn't quite get there. The author seemed to have an incapacity to write outside of their own experience. (Like I'm pretty sure that transfeminine individuals do not universally work in book stores, attend university in some capacity, and love getting their nipples abused after getting sloshed. Geez.) The narrators shared a very similar, even indistinguishable voice.

I'm not sure what the point was of the quirky gra
pros: ownvoices short story collection where every story has a trans woman main character. some are lesbian, some are bi, some are straight, so there's a variety. some stories also have trans side characters or other queer friends. one story had a mother-daughter pair where both of them were trans and that was nice. the stories also went into all kinds of trans experiences.

cons: this book was just... really exhausting to read for several reasons. it's full of triggers, heavy topics, swearing, be
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I cannot for the life of me remember who recommended this book to me, but I'm glad I got it. It's a collection of short stories all featuring trans main characters. The majority of the stories are set in various parts of Canada, New York City or the Pacific Northwest, all places I believe that author has also lived. These are stories of relationships, some sexy, some messy, most complicated- relationships with lovers, exes, parents, friends, pets and cities. My favorite story was the longest one ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian, queer, polyamory
Some of the tightest most readable strongly voiced prose I've read in a long time. Lots of everyday kinky sex, which I don't actually see that often in queer lit. Highlights for me included the lezzie ones, the one where the cat talks, and the one with the Mennonite grandpa & passport theft. ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book but I mostly just got bored.
Sawyer Lovett
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite collection of short fiction.
Jade Walters
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trans
After reading this, i held it to my chest with my arms crossed over it, thinking about the inevitable re-readings of it i would do. Casey. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are some gorgeous stories in this somewhat uneven collection. I loved "Not Bleak", "Winning", "Lizzy & Annie" and "Other Women" (which I'd already read in Topside's anthology The Collection). I was really touched by the characters in these four stories, the richly rendered relationships - between a young woman and her mother who is also a trans woman, between old and new friends, between lovers - and the vivid sense of place. They feel meticulously paced to create this feeling of being you ...more
Alice Lemon
I did enjoy reading this short fiction collection of stories about trans women, but I am not sure I would have enjoyed it without the fact that the stories were specifically about trans women. As it was, I am quite glad that I read it. While some of the stories meant little to me, some of them had beautiful, touching moments.

My complaints---besides the fact that Plett's refusal to use quotation marks makes the dialogue quite confusing at times---mostly stem from the fact that I found it hard to
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was moved by all of these stories and their characters, which are written in a kind of punk/grassroots realism that hits maybe between Michelle Tea and Imogen Binnie: slice of life with a lot of wry humor and one talking cat. The main thing that is notable from a political angle is that this book collects stories about trans women across a wide spectrum of identities and experiences, none of them constructed as either miserably abject or reductively "empowered." One of my favorites explores th ...more
Jeanne Thornton
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Essentially every story in this collection is a door opened, a clear movement into a new area for trans literature to explore. They're also all great. Just this prodigious, ambitious talent that's also fantastically kind, about spaces and situations that it'd be very easy to simplify, to make efficient to navigate with. Casey Plett totally resists that temptation, leaves situations as messy as reality, and finds a way to navigate them anyway with grace and delicacy--and with a raucous wildness t ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Unbelievably great. Casey is brilliant, funny, and describes relationships between trans women in the most amazing way.
Derek Siegel
Apr 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy Casey Plett's writing (I'd recommend "Little Fish" if you haven't read it yet), and she's great at writing interesting, empathetic, and flawed (in a very human way) characters. So rarely are trans women allowed to be complicated people, that the short story collection stands out for that alone. I'll admit - I don't love short stories as a genre, and tend to get disappointed when you just start getting to know a character before it's onto the next story. So it's unsurprising that m ...more
I'm really glad this collection exists, since own voices stories that center trans women are not nearly common enough. I had a hard time with this collection due to some unexpected sexual violence right off the bat and throughout that all went unaddressed, and a general sense of the characters not being well-loved by themselves or others. I know that is often part of the experience of being trans in a world that is too often violent and hateful toward trans folks, and I would never want to tell ...more
Sarah Ames-Foley
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
(You can read this review and more like it on my blog.)

cw: sexual assault, kink

This was such a lovely collection of short stories, focusing on trans women. Most of the stories had a pretty emotional impact on me, which says a lot about the writing. Each story is fairly quick to get through. While I enjoyed it, a lot of the characters kind of melded together for me and I felt that there was too much of an emphasis on a certain kind of sexuality (almost all of the sex was very rough, which could b
Laura Sackton
Wow, I really loved this. I rarely pick up story collections anymore, but this is the third one I've read this year and I'm surprisingly into them. All of these stories are about trans women. Beyond that, they're about ordinary life moments--family, relationships, work. Very quiet, but each one was so impactful. Favorites: "Not Bleak" and "10 Hot Tips for Shopping Success". ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This collection of trans fic includes both straightforward narratives, and pieces written as lists that have a memoir feel to them. I love the voices developed for the characters and Plett's humor. ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked the casual stype of writing. I feel conflicted about the lack of conclusion, the lack of intention in the stories.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible collection of stories revolving around trans women. Casey Plett's writing is lovely, her characters crafted with care but not indulgence. The plots range from small, intimate evenings to larger more expansive road trips and weeks of events. These stories dive into the lives of trans women and not just the surface of transitioning. ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. Short stories that centre trans women make a welcome change from overwhelmingly cis-focused lit, plus I just love Casey Plett's writing voice. The characters are mostly broke queer punk types, which meant it felt really relatable for me, but may be less so for other readers. I also liked that a couple of the characters come from rural, Mennonite backgrounds. There's also sex work, trans parenting, and a talking cat. ...more
Hal Schrieve
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
I had been meaning to read this for a while and finally got around to it!

I think the main reason it took so long was because I have an aversion at this point to stories where the central struggles are around being trans and the couple stories I opened up to when looking this over in 2015 indicated that pretty much every story was like a different intro-to-trans story. Some of the stories in this book are like that—the “trans girlfriends getting drunk too much who face street harrassment” story,
Roz Milner
In just a handful of stories, Plett’s fiction goes across the country, from hip bars in New York to snow-buried apartments in the heartland to cloud-covered neighborhoods in Oregon. Her characters all struggle in some way; sometimes they get it together, but not always. Things get dicey, but I never got a feeling like they were hopeless.

And maybe the thing about her fiction is the thing she doesn’t do: patronize. Her characters, mostly trans women, exist fully formed. They’re not one-dimensiona
nicolle jennelle
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I love these stories. The writing style has such an easy comfort to it, so real without being melodramatic. Casey's nuanced descriptions of relationships between the characters made my heart ache in a familiar way - like when I was a teen and I felt everything so intensely. The stories of belonging and not belonging, of surviving and loving and sex made me feel really ignorant about how I had been so confused by trans people in the queer community. It's summed up in an interaction between two ch ...more
This is the first time I've seen the experience of being a young trans woman accurately reflected in written fiction. It's refreshing, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I am definitely gonna keep an eye out for anything by Casey Plett in the future.


P.S. Thanks for signing my copy, Casey!


P.P.S. in 2019, still a powerful collection on the re-read. Though every piece in it is well worth the time, stand-out stories for me, in order of appearance, are these four: "Lizzy & Annie," "Portland, Orego
Will L
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this over a year; it's good. I've seen reviews criticising the stories for only being about one type of trans woman. I recognised the similarity between all the protagonists but didn't mind; I wasn't expecting a depiction of the full diversity of trans people's lives - something very hard to pull off. The women here are not much like me, and if we met I doubt we'd be great friends. But the characters are all believable, and Plett describes the melancholy mundane with real sensitivity. A S ...more
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was really bummed when I reached the second-to-last story and realized I did not have an infinite supply of Casey Plett stories and would have to eventually read something else. I hesitate to talk about standouts, because this is the kind of book in which every story is a standout. But I think I do have to mention that "Not Bleak" fucked me up and made me cry - not in the way that any old sad thing makes me cry, but in a thoughtful way that came in waves, with heartache and relief in equal mea ...more
Kim Trusty
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Will admit that I haven't read much fiction that puts trans women at the centre of things and Plett's short story collection was a great place to start. Fresh, clear voiced, with such memorable characters, I'm giving "A Safe Girl To Love" 5 stars 'cause even the stories that I didn't love were pretty darn great. Stand out stories for me included: "Other Women", "Lizzy & Annie", "Winning" (runner up for favourite) and "Not Bleak"(which managed to make me laugh AND break my heart several times bef ...more
How is this a "unique" collection of stories when every character is the same trans woman with the same hobbies wearing the same clothes living in the same area having the same problems, drinking heavily and smoking a lot of weed?

This is of course a real and valid experience many trans women have, my issue is with what the expectations the description sets. You can't claim an unique set of POV then deliver the same mediocrely crafted character but with a different name in 9 out of 11 stories.
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Casey Plett is the author of A Dream of a Woman (forthcoming Sept '21), Little Fish, and A Safe Girl to Love. She co-edited the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers and wrote a column on transitioning for McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Her reviews and essays have appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Maclean's, The Walrus, and Plenitude.


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“Who knew, Lizzy thought, the finite amount of nights in her life where she would sleep with her hand around a trusted body. That trusted hers. It wouldn't be a lot, anyway, would it.” 3 likes
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