After an epilepsy-related accident tragically ended Adam Prashaw’s young life, he left a legacy of changed lives and a trove of social media posts documenting his life as a transgender man, his relationships, and his everyday ups and downs. In Soar, Adam, Soar, his father, Rick Prashaw, retells Adam’s story alongside his son’s own words. And in the audiobook edition, John Dickhout brings the book to life with an emotional intensity only possible thanks to his incredible connection to the family: John was the recipient of Adam’s heart via organ donation after Adam’s untimely death.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Listen in full to the complete interview by playing the video above!*
Audiobooks.com: Rick, you say early on in your book that you always knew you would write a book about your son. Where did that conviction come from?
Rick: I was a journalist, I was a Catholic priest, and a storyteller. I had this kid named Adam that doctors identified at birth as a girl and yet intuitively, especially the mother, but also me definitely saw at least a tomboy and certainly a boy in progress. So I knew I had a fascinating story. I wanted to tell that story, the pride of being dad to this kid late in life, given my priesthood part of my my life. And I just knew that this was a story, given his personality, his his joy, and the journey that he was on. It was something that I wanted to tell them.
Audiobooks.com: And you described writing annual birthday letters to Adam that provided a bit of the basis for your book. But then, when did you finally properly sit down to write his story? And what was that process like?
Rick: I retired and… I was so keen to write for myself. And so I did have those letters. I had probably more significant, as it turned out, Adam’s social media and Facebook posts to tell. Both in the years identifying as Rebecca and then later in terms of his huge coming out with his post, “I am Adam.” And so I had all of that material to draw on and also, of course, the family trips and all the adventures that everyone knows about in their in their family life.
[But it was] what happened in 2016 that completely, dramatically shifted the tone of the book. I was in California on a holiday[…] And I got the worst call of my life when we learned that Adam, who had a lifetime of dealing with epilepsy […] had been found face down in a hot tub. Friends had been with him, but they had left to retrieve some clothes in his apartment. He was resuscitated and I had to fly home for this weekend vigil to see if we would get the miracle that we were hoping and praying for. And that was not to be. And yet there was to be some life coming out of that tragedy as Adam was a registered organ donor and he was able to save four lives. So as tragic as it was and as much of grieving, the story started to bubble up inside of me. That lifeline for me was to tell again his entire story, including the gender story, the epilepsy story, but also now a remarkable organ donor part to the book.
Audiobooks.com: And that’s where John, the narrator, comes into the conversation. How did you two become connected and and what was that like?
John: Being a transplant recipient is unlike anything else. And I was pretty obsessed with wanting to find out whatever I could, if I could, about my donor, this person that gave me my life back. […] I had this immense need or desire to share my gratitude somehow, if I could. Soon found out that that wasn’t really promoted. In fact, I remember my post transplant coordinator […] said, “John, you’ll never know who your donor was.” You can send an anonymous letter, which I did, of course. But I remember in my head thinking, “Oh, yeah, well, we’ll see about that.”
So I sent an anonymous letter just to somehow try to put into words the immense gratitude I was feeling toward my my donor and, of course, my donor’s family, who made the decision in a very trying time to grant their wishes of their loved one to be an organ donor. And I wasn’t necessarily expecting, certainly hoping, but not expecting to get a letter in return. But I did. And in that letter, which was just full of love and…sorry, and overwhelming gratitude toward me for having reached out and I was pretty stunned.
But also there were a lot of clues which I think the Trillium Gift of Life Network maybe and Adam had a hand in letting slip through. But there were a lot of clues about this wonderful young man who was my organ donor. So, I just went to the Google machine and plugged in a few keywords from this marvelous letter that I received. And the first thing that popped up was a an obituary. And I could tell immediately that it was written by the same hand as the person who’d sent me this wonderful letter. So, I contrived a plan. I wanted to respect their anonymity and privacy. So, I did remain anonymous for as long as I could until it was absolutely certain that my organ donor[‘s family], which turned out to be Rick, wanted to connect. […] Short story, I created a fake Facebook page called Heart Recipient and sent him an anonymous note and went from there.
Audiobooks.com: So, once you two got connected and Rick, you understood John’s background, did you always have him in mind to narrate the book?
Rick: I think for about five seconds I said, “Oh, I really want to do this myself. You know, this would be such a good experience for me. I’ve never done this.” That thought left me when John popped into my head and I said, “He’d be the perfect choice.” I mean, we were now friends. We knew each other, [and our] families. I was very aware of his golden attitude. I knew he was a community theater actor. I knew he had seized on his desire to be a professional actor. So, I knew he had the skills and I can joke on the good days that he had his “heart” in it for sure. And and I said, “He’s just so perfect.” And of course, then being a professional product, he had to go out and and earn it and do the audition and everything.
Audiobooks.com: What was it like recording it? Were you surprised by anything during the recording process?
John: I got hold of some cubicle walls and built this little makeshift studio. And one thing that surprised me is how bloody hot it got after six hour, eight hour days. The process itself was very interesting to me. You know, you’re live basically with the engineer who’s putting it together as you go. And I guess the one thing I found surprising is how difficult it is to say an entire sentence without stopping and how many times you stop and start and start again. In fact, I hear it when I when I listen to the book now that the first couple of chapters I might be finding my rhythm a little bit.
But that was that was an interesting part of the process. The the most nerve wracking part is thinking about what all those people to whom the book means so much and so many different things, how they would accept it and how I could possibly do justice to their memories, particularly those people that know Rick and [Adamn’s mother] Suzanne and all of his family and, of course, Adam. To try to put a voice to what they already have in their heads was a little bit daunting.
Audiobooks.com: And so, Rick, for you, what was it like to hear John bring the book to life?
Rick: I rely on Adam’s family and friends, and they just rave about John and the voice and the telling of the story. So, he certainly has no worries. He shouldn’t have any worries. The people that really know the story, know my boy, are just thrilled with the with the audiobook.
Audiobooks.com: And certainly, John, your narration brings an extraordinarily personal element to the audiobook. What do you think really elevates the audio experience, perhaps not above print, but certainly as a wonderful companion?
John: Yeah. So, I mean, really, for me, knowing that I feel, anyway for the for the listener, that just knowing that story or maybe discovering the story as it unfolds on its own lifts the senses, I suppose. That’s another interesting thing. The engineer who recorded the audiobook with me wasn’t aware. He knew that Rick and I had a connection, but he didn’t know what it was until we got to those chapters in the book. So, it was pretty neat to experience that with someone who’s hearing it for the first time. So, yeah, that I think that it’s going to mean different things and it’s going to touch different people in different ways. But I certainly think if you’ve got a heart, it’ll probably mean something to you.
Rick: Jemma, I get notes. One of the great surprises as an author that I had is to get notes from strangers and they tell you what the story does, what this boy does. So, sometimes when you’re a publisher, they all want to know what section of the bookstore, what’s the hashtag to use here? And for sure, there’s a gender story. He was this tomboy that was like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or Tatum O’Neal played that picture in the Paper Moon. Very much looked like those two characters. So this is a gender story. There’s the epilepsy story. There’s the organ donor story, but there’s the family acceptance of this kid.
And then somebody finally, one of the podcasters said, it’s a love story. And that’s what I like the best to hear, that it’s a love story not just of people like family and parents and friends for Adam, but it’s Adam’s love for himself, where he had the courage and the resiliency to be who he was and to love who he wanted to love. […]
There’s just so many angles and so many audiences out there for the story.
Audiobooks.com: I wonder what lessons you might draw for us from his life as the world moves collectively through this time of hardship. What would Adam have to say about this right now?
Rick: I just chuckle in the good days about Adam getting the biggest kick out of a book written about him, an audiobook that John is the voice. I, just as a dad, I think that’s where I go to to enjoy thinking about Adam watching all of this from his place now. He would enjoy the celebrity and the attention of it. It would be always from the fun perspective, because no matter how many times life knocked them down, it was always get back up and and like, “What’s next? Let’s go to a sunny place.” He’d whine for a day on Facebook and then he’d be back in his happy place. […] I take enormous comfort in thinking of Adam being so happy in terms of his story being out there.
Coming out. Coming in. Coming home.
Adam Prashaw’s life was full of surprises from the moment he was born. Assigned female at birth, and with parents who had been expecting a boy, he spent years living as ‘Rebecca Danielle Adam Prashaw’ before coming to terms with being a transgender man. Adam captured hearts with his humor, compassion, and intensity. After a tragic accident cut his life short, he left a legacy of changed lives and a trove of social media posts documenting his life, relationships, transition, and struggles with epilepsy, all with remarkable transparency and directness.
In Soar, Adam, Soar, his father, a former priest, retells Adam’s story alongside his son’s own words. From early childhood, through coming out first as a lesbian and then as a man, and his battles with epilepsy and refusal to give in, it chronicles Adam’s drive to define himself, his joyful spirit, and his love of life, which continues to conquer all.
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