Ivan Coyote’s book Care Of is an ode to the lost art of letter writing – and the power of human connection

The next chapter14:13Ivan Coyote in Care Of

Ivan Coyote talks to Shelagh Rogers about their book, Care Of: Letters, Connections, Cures. The conversation was about the online community book club North Shore Reads – a special initiative of the North Vancouver Library.

For more than 25 years, Ivan Coyote has told their personal story in books and shows. The Yukon writer and author has written over a dozen books, created four short films, and released three albums combining storytelling and music, and is known for exploring gender identity and queer liberation in her writing.

That all stopped when the COVID-19 lockdown hit, but Coyote is still in touch with his audience. They started responding to the letters, emails and handwritten notes they received during those years of touring.

These letters form their last book care of, which combines the most moving and powerful of these letters with the responses they sent in the months following the lockdown.

Coyote spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing Care of in a virtual Q&A as part of the British Columbia-based North Shore Reads book club.

Shelagh Rogers: is Care of a memoir?

Ivan Coyote: I guess, sort of. For me, it was a tribute to the letter itself. I mean, insofar as a good letter is a memoir, at least a short memoir capturing a chapter in a person’s life. That’s what they were doing. They would make up for it by letter, right?

How do you avoid burnout and how does it feel to resume touring?

I will never return to tour with the same kind of intensity as before the pandemic for many, many reasons. First, the economic reality is so different. Hotels have doubled, flights are, I would say, 60% more. Gas is more expensive. Good luck with a rental car.

It takes a certain type of interpreter to be in front of 800 grade 11 students. It was really hard work. I am proud of the work I have done.

I am changed on a fundamental level. I think my school performance days might be over. I’ve played for over 650,000 middle and high school students on five continents now. It’s borderline storytelling. It takes a certain type of interpreter to be in front of 800 grade 11 students. It was a lot of work. I am proud of the work I have done.

School shows can be a pain, especially in auditoriums for people who aren’t consenting like a theater audience does, where everyone wants to come instead of “They’re making us go to an auditorium for a lecture where he There’s a speaker. What’s it this time? Crystal meth, teenage pregnancy? Oh, trans people.

Do you think they made a difference?

I know they made a difference. I did shows for 20 years. So I literally played for the children of the people I played for. And look Care of and how many letters have I received? I mean, there’s no doubt that I did work that had some value.

I was unapologetic, unashamed, answered their questions, and provided some sort of representation that I certainly never had access to.​​​​​​

I stood in front of about 650,000 children. So if we go with the estimate, I think quite conservative of 10%, we’re talking about 65,000 gay or trans young people who, while they might not have liked it, at least I was there- high. I wasn’t apologetic, I wasn’t ashamed, I answered their questions and provided some kind of representation that I certainly never had access to.

How important is it that queer and trans kids can now see themselves in books and stories?

The first trans character I ever saw was in The crying game where even the man who loved her threw up when he found out who she really was. And that was considered a representation because we existed in it.

We didn’t have the luxury of being too picky about how we were portrayed. That’s what’s exciting about the whole literary scene.

I was just talking to the lovely Zoe Whittall about it. She reminded me of how we used to go to festivals and you could literally put all queer authors, let alone trans queer authors, at one table. And now there are so many that I can’t keep up. And I would say the same about Indigenous authors and writers.

When I read Care of, I was so struck by your vulnerability and generosity. How do you discern what to share and what to hold sacred?

Let’s unpack the word “vulnerable,” just for a second. Because if you look at the dictionary definition of the word, it means “open to attack.” There are other meanings, but this is the first definition.

People often say, “Thank you for being so vulnerable. I could never do it. And what they say is that they could never do that, that they would feel susceptible to attack. I don’t feel that.

Being on stage is a sacred place for me. I try to give the best of myself on this stage as much as I am humanly capable of doing. Whatever minor annoyance or grievance I might have in my head, I try to disperse it from my heart before I intervene.

Being on stage in touch with other people on an emotional level, knowing that the right story told by the right person at the right time in the right place in the right way can do is the most powerful thing I have ever seen. .

For me, being on stage in emotional connection with other people, knowing what the right story told by the right person at the right time in the right place in the right way can do is the most powerful thing I can do. have ever seen.

We have all witnessed it. We have all been part of this circle of connection. And being able to take someone to a place emotionally is an extremely powerful thing. I don’t find him vulnerable at all.

Ivan Coyote’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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