By Olive Dausinas
Silence can be deafening. The days move by so slowly, but the weeks seem to pile up without question. The intrigue of who we are and what defines us can feel almost crushing at times. A weight sitting upon the chest, squeezing the days and weeks out of one’s self. A hole appears in the chest, draining every bit of you out of you. This book sat upon my shelf for nearly a year. I bought it the day it released, but something within me kept me from reading it. Maybe I was scared to open it. Too frightened and nervous to begin questioning myself again. But when I opened it up this month, I knew it was time. Noelle Stevenson has been a creator I’ve followed for years upon years, a person whom I admire and who gave me the inspiration to create myself. Their memoir, The Fire Never Goes Out, is one that I needed to read. For myself.
The Fire Never Goes Out is a memoir told in both word and picture. It follows the adult life of artist and writer, Noelle Stevenson, from 2011, when they were a sophomore in university, to their marriage to fellow writer, Molly Knox Ostertag in 2019. The hardships of young adulthood are told year-by-year, Noelle’s mindset shown through new and old writings and art. From their beginning in art school in Baltimore to being the creator of a highly popular and critically well-received Netflix original, The Fire Never Goes Out, they never fail to put emotions at the forefront of their writing.
The major themes of Noelle’s memoir tackle, what I believe, what it is to be an individual person. A human being in and of themself. We are not normally privy to the thinking of another person, but when we are it can strike a chord. A chord so powerful, that the heart aches. For every moment in this book, I felt my own do just that. I am not them, but those struggles ring eerily true within me. Some of those moments I have yet to cross with, though others I have met with head-on, and it is these types of memoirs that resonate the most. They have to be human, coming directly from the heart, and this wholeheartedly succeeds in that.
Similar authors to Noelle that I recommend are Molly Knox Ostertag, their wife, and Tamsyn Muir. Both are queer writers who create some of the best in their fields. Molly has written a popular trilogy of graphic novels called The Witch Boy, which has recently been announced for an animated musical-film adaptation. Muir is most well known for her critically acclaimed The Locked Tomb series, about lesbian necromancers in outer space.
I cannot possibly say enough good things about The Fire Never Goes Out. It has been quite some time since I read something this powerful, and even then I knew that it would be just that. For nearly a year I put off reading this book, filled with excuses on why I could not get to it. The story of Noelle, their troubles, and their life hit hard to a young adult queer creator like myself. And I feel as though it will similarly be able to resonate with other young creators attempting to find themselves and their places in a world where it can seem nearly impossible to keep moving forward. This book inspires hope to keep going, even when all else feels lost.
This is a memoir I highly recommend. It is unlike any other I have read, and it is the one that has hit closest to home. The struggles presented in this book are real struggles—the struggles of a human being attempting to create not just stories or books or television shows, but their own life. The power this book has strikes harder than most, and perhaps it’s because of how raw and personal it is.
The book ends up back on the shelf, where it sat for so long. But this time, I’m not scared of it. Rather, it lit something within me. Something I didn’t expect to happen. A fire, that I hope, will not go out.