Care of: Letters, Connections, and Cures, the latest book by Ivan Coyote, combines the most powerful letters Coyote has received through the years with their responses, creating a body of correspondence of startling intimacy, breathtaking beauty, and heartbreaking honesty and openness.
Coyote, the award-winning author of 13 books, is Western’s Alice Munro Chair in Creativity.
For the past 25 years, Coyote has traveled the world sharing their unique brand of storytelling. Along the way, they’ve collected a file of the most special communications received from readers and audience members – letters, Facebook messages, emails, and even a soggy handwritten note tucked under the windshield wiper of their truck after a gig.
And then the world stopped. Last spring, like artists everywhere, Coyote was grounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and all their planned events were cancelled.
The energy of a live audience, Coyote’s lifeblood, was suddenly gone. But with this loss came an opportunity for a different kind of connection. Those letters they’d been collecting for decades could finally begin to be answered.
Taken together, they become an affirming and joyous reflection on many of the themes central to Coyote’s celebrated work – compassion and empathy, family fragility, non-binary and Trans identity, and the unending beauty of simply being alive, a giant love letter to the idea of human connection, and the power of truly listening to each other.
Born and raised in Whitehorse, Coyote is the author of 13 books, the creator of four films, six stage shows, and three albums that combine storytelling with music. Coyote’s books have won the ReLit Award, been named a Stonewall Honour Book, been longlisted for Canada Reads, shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize for non-fiction, and awarded BC and Yukon Book Prize’s inaugural Jim Deva Prize for Writing That Provokes. In 2017, Coyote was given an honorary Doctor of Laws from Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism.
Care of: Letters, Connections, and Cures is available now.
You can read an exclusive Western News excerpt from of the book below. The excerpt is a response to a letter they received in February 2020 from an English teacher in Calgary. The letter writer is also the proud and loving father of a teenage son, who is trans.
I don’t speak to my dad about who I really am very much. He loves my partner Sarah, and respects her, and loves her music, and he is kinder to her than he is to me, and that is mostly enough for me. He gets my name right almost half of the time around me, but calls me by my deadname to his friends still, I suspect. I know he loves me, but these facets of who I am embarrass him. All of this about me seems to be . . . inconvenient for him. I manage to be patient when correcting him about my name, which I changed 27 years ago now. I don’t even try to get him to comprehend my choice of pronoun. He is 72 years old, and an alcoholic struggling increasingly with dementia. I pick my battles, and this is one I know there is no winner for, and I do not have the heart to pick up my arms to fight him. If I could bottle the hurt all of this has caused me, and get him to take even a sip of it, I know he would try harder, but to be honest, it would be a drip in a river of guilt he feels about his failings as a parent, and as a man, and I am too merciful to do that to him at this point. He might not remember it all the next day anyway, and that might just crush me.
Why am I telling you all of this? Is this too much information? Did you really want to know any of this about me when you sat down in front of your computer in February? Is July too late to talk about any of it?
I’m crying now as I type. I have worked very hard for years to not feel ashamed of my tears, to allow myself to fully feel things, to describe them, to share them. To craft them into the shape of a story. This is what I know about stories: they can tear me up on their way out of me, but they rarely leave a scar. I am healed in a way, just by the telling.
Please sit down with Atticus and read him the letter you wrote to me, and read him my letter back to you. I want him to see your love and care for him in your words, shining from these pages like they do. I want him to see his future glinting. I want him to know that he will grow up and one day be someone’s hero, someone’s roadmap, and role model. Maybe even someone’s father.
I think you are the kind of father who, if he could, would put yourself in between any harm or hurt the world might aim at your children, but you can’t do that. There will never be enough of you to do that. This world is full of far too many people who actively work to make life difficult for trans people, and there are even those who would disappear us if they could. But there will never be enough of them to do that. They can never will us, or deny us, or legislate us, out of existence.
We are here, as we always have been.
Every new generation is born to parents who, at some point, will not understand their children. I’ve never curled up under the covers and cried because my father didn’t understand me, but I still weep even as I write to you today, because he didn’t listen, and he doesn’t ask, and he won’t try. You did, and you do, and you are.
I hope this letter finds you and Atticus, and the rest of your family well, and thriving. Please do let me know how school is this fall, for both of you. Please give Atticus a hug from me, until the world turns enough that I am able to hug him again myself.
With much love and admiration, Ivan
Excerpted from Care Of by Ivan Coyote. Copyright © 2021 Ivan Coyote. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.