Hot, Wet & Shaking by Kayleigh Trace is an autobiography about discovering sexuality in a world that often tells us how it should look.

I’m a huge fan of local writing. However, many local books tend to focus on pirates, ghosts, or the Halifax Explosion. While these are all worthy topics, sometimes you have to expand your horizons… or at least delve into areas often avoided in polite company.

I picked up Hot, Wet & Shaking at Venus Envy over the summer. Seems reasonable they would keep it in stock because

a) half the store is made up of books and
b) the author is an employee.

It was pretty awesome to buy the author’s book while she was working, although I felt it would have been weird to ask her to sign it. Of course, it seems more weird NOT to have asked and now be writing about it.

First off, I do judge books by their covers. Invisible Publishing did an amazing job packaging this book, from the typography to the graphic design. The front cover appears to be plastered with toothed vulvae* and the bright colours capture your attention long before you dig into the words. Most people probably don’t care about fonts, so I won’t begin raving about the typography. You’re probably wondering what the book is about, and talking about the font isn’t going to get you closer to that objective.

So what is it about? It’s about discovering orgasms while, ironically enough, becoming a sexual health educator. It’s about the East Coast. It’s about coming of age as a disabled person in an able-bodied world.

Let’s just say a lot happens in this tiny little volume.

Hot, Wet & Shaking is laugh-out-loud funny in some parts, incredibly touching in others (pun partially intended). This combination is bound to happen when you talk about early sexual experiences (which often go astray and may or may not involve teeth, plums, and unintentional golden showers) with the added elements of disability and queerness that complicate growing up in an ableist, heterosexist society.

The book contains numerous bits including how to

  • teach sexual health with the contents of a fruit basket
  • publish an erotic short story on your personal blog while forgetting your family reads it (grandmother included)
  • have an abortion in Nova Scotia (this section brought me to tears, especially when I read about the kindness of the nurse during the procedure)
  • fight back against catcalling men who seem to think your bicycle and your body should be the object of ridicule
  • sell a sex toy to a widower (which may or may not help her arthritis)
  • NOT try vaginal stimulation gel before driving to work

Trace’s book is like a talk with an old friend you can share anything with (or the kind of friend who is willing to instruct you in the skills of coitus and give you your first box of condoms). These conversations remind you human relationships and sex do not always go as planned, and that’s okay.

Finally, as a fellow sex educator, I nod my head knowingly about how some of us end up here, surrounded by wooden penises and thousands of condoms, wondering,How the heck did this happen?

If you’d like to read a great local book that isn’t about coal mining or privateers, I highly recommend this one.

Just go to the bookstore and look for bright pink toothy vulvae.* You can’t miss them.

* I’ve always used the word vulvas for the plural of vulva. For a long time, I ignored the red lines that indicated spell check had a problem with my spelling because spell check usually cries wolf. Finally, I looked up vulva to find the proper plural form is actually vulvae. Either I’m a terrible sexual health educator, or, as a society, we continue to struggle with calling vulvae their proper names (and not just vaginas). I don’t think anyone has ever had trouble with the pluralization of penises. But I digress.

Hot, Wet & Shaking: How I Learned to Talk about Sex
Kayleigh Trace
Invisible Publishing, 2014

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