Women Asking Women: Eden Boudreau and Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay
For our final Women Asking Women interview, Eden Boudreau discusses her debut memoir Crying Wolf with Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay, discussing her novel-in-translation Dandelion Daughter. Together they discuss writing sexual assault, the receptions of their stories in the queer community and elsewhere, and healing-through-writing.See more details below
In honour of Women's History Month, we asked women writers from across the country to pair up and interview each other on all kinds of things: their processes, their inspirations, their thoughts on WWW (writing while women). We can't wait to share these conversations with you.
Interview: Eden Boudreau ( Crying Wolf, Book*hug Press) and Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay ( Dandelion Daughter, Véhicule Press)
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: Your book talks about healing and recovery. How healing can writing be? How does writing help you as a human, writer, and survivor?
Eden Boudreau: Writing, at least for me, is a form of therapy. I grew up in an environment that didn’t encourage me to share my feelings or to be vulnerable. And much the same thing happened after my assault, as I was being judged for how people assumed my non monogamous “lifestyle” played a role in it and therefore my pain wasn’t valid.
All these moments taught me to repress how I was feeling but writing was the one space I was safe to let them out.
No one ever had to read them if I didn’t want them too. Eventually though, it felt necessary to share it, in the hope that it might help someone else find their voice as well.
Eden Boudreau: Tell me about Dandelion Daughter and how you found the courage to tap into such an intimate narrative?
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: Dandelion Daughter is a novel inspired by my life about a young trans girl who lives in a dysfunctional family in the middle of the 1990s and 2000s, in a time when there is no information about gender identity. It's a long poem about resilience. I wrote this story out of necessity because in French-speaking Quebec there was no such story and also did it for myself, to heal, to take my power back over the not always easy experience of giving birth to yourself and defining yourself.
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: In my book there is a scene about an assault and I remember how hard it was for me to go there, and since yours features assault too, I was wondering what was for you the challenges you faced in the process of writing them and living them for another time. Do you think putting them down on paper is a way of having power over them?
Eden Boudreau: That’s a great question, I think for anyone who has to recall something as traumatic as sexual violence one of the first big concerns is making sure you get it right.
For me, having to really dig around those memories and pull out the most minute details, knowing as painful as they were also how important they were, was some of the most difficult work when writing this memoir.
And yes, I think putting them on paper is a sort of taking back of power. Controlling the narrative and no longer being afraid of what people will think.
Eden Boudreau: Did writing Dandelion Daughter feel like yet another sort of evolution? Transitioning from this story belonging to just you, to being able to give it freely to everyone who needs it?
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: Writing Dandelion Daughter took 15 years. I did 10 years of transition, so this book also had a kind of transition itself. I've been careful to update it as closely as possible to my realities as I’ve had realizations, break-ups and movings to different places along the process. It is a novel of duality. The city and the country are as opposed as the before and during the transition. The love and the lack of it.
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: In which way literature can change the world?
Eden Boudreau: Literature has this way of speaking for those who have been silenced. Telling the stories of people who have been systematically suppressed and forgotten. Our stories bring them back to the forefront. We force people to look the ugly truth in the face and refuse to let them live in ignorance. That’s how literature can change the world, in my opinion.
Eden Boudreau: Was there, if any, push back from friends, family or community about writing your book?
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: Unexpectedly no, I've even had a lot of positive feedback from people outside of the LGBTQ+ community. From straight cis guys too. I remember a father telling me he better understands his trans daughter thanks to the book. Same story with a grandmother towards her trans daughter. That said, if the book has worked so well in French-speaking Quebec, it’s not an educational pamphlet but a human adventure story. I’ve also had very good comments from the communities. Which is always reassuring. I remember that I wanted this book as a white flag as a message to people who are not concerned by this reality: look at what is happening, all this violence, these pitfalls and this injustice that we don’t deserve. But also: stop this evil behaviour towards us. Or at least be allies. I wanted a book where at the end we have the feeling of having met someone who’s another human that is thriving like everyone else to love and be loved.
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay: A basic question, but I’ve found it can be interesting. What are your motivations about writing? Why are you writing?
Eden Boudreau: To be very honest, I think my motivations for writing are ever evolving. When I was young, it was to escape. After the assault, it was to find my voice and speak for those who couldn’t. Now I think it’s a combination of all those reasons, as well as for the pure, genuine joy of it. Writing fills me up. It gives me purpose and direction, and I can’t think of a better reason to do it.
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Eden Boudreau was born and raised in a small rural area just outside Halifax. In 2016, she relocated to Ontario with her family. As a bisexual, polyamorous woman who has survived her fair share of adversity, Eden's work draws on her life experiences to inspire vulnerable and relatable stories. Her essays have been featured in Flare, Today's Parent, and Runner's World, amongst others. She is the host and creator of the podcast, Dear Lonely Writer, aimed at destigmatizing mental health struggles during the writing process. Boudreau lives in Georgina, Ontario. Crying Wolf is her first book.
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay is a writer, actress, model, and trans activist. Apart from the resounding success of her debut novel La fille d'elle même, her supporting role in the 2016 film Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau garnered her the first-ever nomination for a trans actress at the Canadian Screen Awards. Her other publications include the poetry collections Le Ventre des volcans (2015) and Les secrets de l'origami (2018), and La voix de la nature (2022), a book for young adults.
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Many thanks to Eden and Gabrielle for closing out the Women Asking Women series, which you can catch up on right here.
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