At the book fair in Rimouski, a woman picked up my first book to read the back cover. She put it back down, avoiding my eyes. It’s heavy, cancer and death and all that. I wish books were more interactive. Like video game controllers. They could vibrate at the end of each chapter. But that’s not how life works. I wonder what death is like. Do you vibrate? Do the words GAME OVER appear?
In 2012, Vickie Gendreau was diagnosed with a brain tumour and wrote a book narrating her own death. Testament could have been Gendreau’s first and only novel, but she kept writing, furiously, until the very end.
Published posthumously after Gendreau’s death in 2013 at age 24, Drama Queens continues her exploration of illness and death that began in Testament, but with even greater urgency and audacity. In her singular voice, Gendreau mixes genres and forms, moving from art installations to fantastical little films to poetry, returning again and again to a deeply raw and unflinching narrative of her increasingly difficult days.
With rage, dark humour, and boundless spirit and imagination, Drama Queens, translated by Aimee Wall, records the daily life of a young woman living with a failing body, the end in sight, and still so much to say.
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Fiction Preview —49th Shelf
Fall Books Preview 2019: Non-fiction, Graphica, and Fiction in Translation —Quill and Quire
“As she writes against her own death, Gendreau is a showy, insistent stylist; a diva; but a sad, sleepless, lonely one. She groans that her “story to break your heart is not working,” but it is. She demanded to have the last word on her life and her work, and we have to give it to her.” —Paige Cooper, Montreal Review of Books
“Drama Queens, also translated by Wall, is a brutally honest book, one full of tricks and deceptions. It should be required reading for anyone who thinks that Elena Ferrante or Teju Cole write autofiction.” —P.T. Smith, Full Stop
Vickie Gendreau was born in Montréal in 1989. While working in Montréal strip clubs from October 2009 to June 2012, she was also active in the literary community, where she participated in events like the Off-Festival de poésie de Trois-Rivières. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012 and passed away a year later. Her first novel, Testament, written after her diagnosis, was published in fall 2012. It was longlisted for the 2013 Prix littéraire France-Québec, and the English edition was published by Book*hug in 2016. Her second novel, Drama Queens, was published posthumously in 2014.
Newfoundland-native Aimee Wall is a writer and translator. She has previously translated the novels Testament by Vickie Gendreau, and Sports and Pastimes by Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard, as well as Maude Veilleux’s Prague, a co-translation with Aleshia Jensen. Her first novel, We Jane, is forthcoming from Book*hug. She lives in Montréal.