Shane dreams of leaving his Anishinaabe reserve and going to university in Toronto, but his path is not that simple. He’s grieving over his sister’s suicide and his mother’s breakdown, all while juggling romantic relationships with both David and Tara. When Shane’s funds for university fall through, he’s forced to make tough decisions about his future.
With skillful prose, Adam Garnet Jones weaves a story that delves into community trauma, family bonds, and queer Indigenous identity. This novel is an adaptation of Jones’s award-winning film of the same name.
How can Shane reconcile his feelings for David with his desire for a better life?
Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.
With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but while his path doesn’t always offer easy answers, it does leave the reader optimistic about his fate.
Genre: Contemporary realistic, with romantic elements
Cis boys: Shane (the MC) and David (a secondary character) might be cis boys. Shane contemplates what it means to be a boy, or the “right kind of boy.” Later, Shane implies that he and David are two-spirited, but Shane does not specify whether he considers that to be his gender.
Cis girl: Tara (a secondary character)
Trans girl: Makwa (a side character, not shown on the page) is implied to be a trans girl
Shane implies that he and David are two-spirited
Shane contemplates whether he is gay. He questions his sexuality and thinks maybe he doesn’t need a label.
David is implied to be queer, possibly gay. He does not state his sexuality.
Bisexual/Pansexual: Shane is in a secret relationship with David, and he is in a non-secret relationship with Tara. Shane is still questioning his sexuality and does not use a label.
Heterosexual: Tara is implied to be heterosexual. She does not state her sexuality.
None of the characters’ romantic orientations are explicitly stated
Indigenous Nation/Tribal Affiliation:
Shane, David, Tara, and most other characters are Anishinaabe
Debbie and Kyle (side characters) are of Ishkode Ojibwe Nation. Shane, David, and Tara might be presumed to be of the same nation.
A side character says to Shane, “When you were born, you were registered as a member on your dad’s rez. After he died, nobody changed you over here, so you’re technically still on the rolls at Eagle Creek.”
Mohawk: Annalise (a side character, not shown on the page) is a Mohawk from Akwesasne
Indigenous: Shane, David, Tara, and most other characters are implied to be Indigenous
Indigenous spirituality: David, plus various side characters, have Anishinaabe spiritual beliefs and practices
Atheism/Humanism: Shane compares both Indigenous beliefs and Christianity to fairy tales, but he also participates in some Indigenous customs
Evie (a side character) is a former Catholic, due to residential school
Other side characters are Christian/Catholic
Shane’s mother exhibits signs of debilitating depression. The word “depression” is not used on the page.
Evie (a side character) is said to be “basically blind”
Location: A fictional Anishinaabe reserve in Canada
On page: significant other’s death by suicide (hanging), near-suicide with a gun, suicidal ideation, gunshot, violence/assault, sexual harassment, spiking a drink, bullying, self-harm, depression, selling drugs, victim-blaming, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, anti-gay language and statements, sexist language, ableist language, anti-fat statements, cheating on a significant other, funeral, memorial, poverty
Mentioned but not shown on page: sibling’s death by suicide (hanging), other suicides, attempted suicide with a knife, murder victims, rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, missing people, police violence, parent’s death, overdoses, bootlegging, car accidents
Ownvoices: Fire Song is ownvoices for queer, Two-Spirited, and Indigenous representation, as well as suicidal depression in early life. The author is Cree/Métis; the characters are Anishinaabe.
Ending: The queer characters have a hopeful ending