One In Every Crowd
by Ivan E Coyote
Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver BC
© Copyright 2012
A collection of short stories; some from previous collections. The rear cover blurb says it’s their “first specifically for queer youth.” I agree that young queers will most likely identify with many, if not all, of the stories. Plenty of queer folks- youth, elders and everything in between- will recognize themselves and others in these stories. I’m sad that such writings were not available when I was still a queerling; sad that too many young ones still find affirmation only in the writings of a stranger. But oh so happy that these writings are now in print. And more; Ivan does readings and speaking engagements in schools and public events from their base in Vancouver BC.
Ivan’s work is very accessible; the casual nature of their stories has the same effect as the seemingly simple artwork Sophie Labelle uses for Assigned Male– her “Webcomic about a transgender girl“.
Opening with “I had a sex change once, when I was six years old,” (No Bikini) the first couple of stories focus on Ivan’s ‘tomboy’ youth in Yukon Territory; life in a harsh world that helped prepare them for the harsher world we call ‘civil society’. It is not until the ninth story, opening the second of six sections, that they start to question if everyone else worried about their sexuality. Only to realize “there was only one member of my family wondering about me. And that was me,” (Objects In The Mirror).
The stories quickly return to vignettes of Ivan’s life, and the lives theirs intersects. One of the stories from an earlier collection demonstrates the power of storytelling. One audience member approaches Ivan after a reading, and says “the little girl in that story, she reminds me of me… and nobody ever reminds me of me,” (Nobody Ever).
Even the feminine boys, who might not identify with Ivan’s butch presentation, no doubt appreciate being accepted and loved just as they are. Both Ivan and I fell in love with Francis; “born a special kind of creature, one that God never meant for everyone to understand, but that I understand” who sprang from a frozen field in the Yukon. Ivan understands that “age has never mattered to a true queen,” and “drag queens always dance in spite of everything,” (Red Sock Circle Dance).
Life is not always rainbows and roses; later in the book Ivan reminds us that there are challenges in being authentic in a binary-based society. How we approach gender, sex, and sexuality continues to be a challenge. They remind us that “people who believe that I am being deceitful have never lived in a skin like mine,” (My Kind of Guy). Ivan will not give in, knowing that “it would be easier if I just picked a pronoun and stuck with it, but that would be a compromise made for the comfort of everyone else but me,” (Imagine a Pair of Boots).
Ever the storyteller eager to close on an upbeat note (that just happens to hint at a sequel) Ivan looks ahead to a time “we’ll have a lot more to say to each other about gay marriage than ‘I never thought it would happen to you’,” in the final story; I Will.
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