***CANADA BOOK AWARD WINNER******IPPY AWARDS SILVER MEDAL, CANADA-EAST BEST REGIONAL NONFICTION CATEGORY*****BEST ATLANTIC-PUBLISHED BOOK AWARD WINNER******MARGARET AND JOHN SAVAGE FIRST BOOK AWARD - NON-FICTION WINNER******CBC BOOKS WRITER TO WATCH LIST***
On July 2, 2015, influential social activist Gemma Hickey began a 908-kilometer walk across the island of Newfoundland to raise awareness and funds for survivors of religious institutional abuse. Almost Feral celebrates the community of support that gathered around this journey and recounts Hickey’s remarkable story of self-discovery which led to the realization that they are transgender. In this thought-provoking and wide-ranging autobiography, Hickey counters memories of sexual assault, bullying, and depression with inspiring reflections on faith, love, family, individual and communal identity, sex, gender, and acceptance. Through complex feelings of empathy and solitude, weakness and strength, suffering and recovery, Gemma Hickey’s Almost Feral chronicles a journey from one side of an island to the other side of personal identity—charting an unknown territory where one’s body becomes the map that leads to home.
Gemma Hickey is a passionate humanist whose activism has changed the legal landscape of Canada, expanding rights, equality and dignity for the LGBTQ2+ community and raising awareness for survivors of clergy abuse. Since 2010, they have been Executive Director of For the Love of Learning, a non-profit that works to forge new paths for at-risk youth by advancing their literacy and creative skills. In 2013, Gemma created the Pathways Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports survivors of clergy abuse. To promote awareness and raise funds for the cause, they walked 938 kilometres across Newfoundland in July 2015. Gemma’s physical and personal journey through gender transformation is the subject of Just Be Gemma, a documentary produced by Nine Island Communications. As a well-known force for change, Gemma co-led the movement that legalized same-sex marriage in Canada in 2005. In 2017, their request for a gender-neutral birth certificate spurred Newfoundland and Labrador to change its law, and Gemma became the first person in Canada to receive a non-binary birth certificate. A strong believer in ongoing learning and individual growth, Gemma lives in St. John’s, where they are currently working on a Master’s degree in Gender Studies at Memorial University.
“Gemma Hickey writes with honesty and heart. Almost Feral is not an easy story, but it’s an important one. Gemma’s strength and bravery shine through in every part of this journey, from childhood to adult, and from one side of Newfoundland to the other. Through beautiful prose, the reader travels Gemma’s 908 km walk… and experiences lessons in faith, tolerance, identity, solitude, and love. ”
— The Margaret and John Savage First Book Award - Nonfiction jury
“Almost Feral is a significant achievement and a brave book documenting prominent social activist Gemma Hickey’s historic 908 km walk across Newfoundland to raise funds and awareness for survivors of religious institutional abuse. In a well put together narrative Hickey delivers a remarkable story of self-discovery, engaging in topics of LGBTQ+ rights, abuse and recovery, and community. A bold and impactful book, published with impressive sales results and wonderfully received. ”
— Best Atlantic Published Book Award jury
“Gemma Hickey (they/them) takes us on a journey of weakness, strength, loss and growth… I loved how the author tackled various issues and topics including sexuality, religion, abuse, Indigenous communities, and even menstruation. I gained even more respect for the author for dedicating a chapter on colonialism and their role as a White individual… This is a moving and inspirational story that I highly recommend… especially if you are looking to expand your knowledge on contemporary Canadian political issues, feminism, and the LGBTQ+ community. ”
— Joan Sullivan
"Witty, frank and insightful, Hickey’s writing is also passionate and thorough in defining and defending sexual orientation and same sex or transgender rights. .. As well it is a thorough exploration of identities, how they are framed, imposed and self-constructed. .. Almost Feral is a layered, revealing and rewarding memoir (and nicely designed, too; love those landscape-imprinted pages). "
— Joan Sullivan