Beloved storyteller Ivan Coyote returns with their most intimate and moving book yet.
Writer and performer Ivan Coyote has spent decades on the road, telling stories around the world. For years, Ivan has kept a file of the most special communications received from readers and audience members—letters, Facebook messages, emails, soggy handwritten notes tucked under the windshield wiper of their truck after a gig. Then came Spring, 2020, and, like artists everywhere, Coyote was grounded by the pandemic, all their planned events cancelled. The energy of a live audience, a performer’s lifeblood, was suddenly gone. But with this loss came an opportunity for a different kind of connection. Those letters that had long piled up could finally begin to be answered.
Care Of combines the most powerful of these letters with Ivan’s responses, creating a body of correspondence of startling intimacy, breathtaking beauty, and heartbreaking honesty and openness. 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.
About the author
Ivan Coyote is the award-winning author, co-author or co-editor of eleven books, including Tomboy Survival Guide, shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize and an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. They are also the creator of four short films as well as three CDs that combine storytelling with music. Ivan is a seasoned stage performer and an audience favourite at storytelling, literary, film, and folk music festivals. Their latest book is Rebent Sinner. Ivan lives in Vancouver.
- Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award - Nonfiction
Excerpt: Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures (by (author) Ivan Coyote)
I get a lot of mail. Emails, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram messages. Handwritten letters passed to me at the book signing table at a festival, a rain-soaked and blurry blue-inked note scrawled on the back of a flyer and left under the windshield of my car after a gig two years ago. Since 2009 or so I have been keeping both an electronic and a hard copy file of special letters, ones I always meant to sit down and answer properly, if and when I had the time. If and when was now upon me, and so I did.
This book does not answer all of my mail, not even close. I still owe so many beautiful writers a response to their missives. What I did was follow my storyteller’s heart, and I chose the letter that most called out for an answer on the morning of each day I sat down to write.
Some of my replies stretched out into four or five pages. I answered each letter with a story that the original letter shook loose from my ribcage. Outside my office window the snow melted and the green fingers of the garden started to burst out of the dirt in the backyard. I had the time and the stillness to watch the ants crawl over the peony buds and learn the names of the birds arriving and departing the feeder we hung from the spruce tree. I had time to drink a second coffee in my bare feet. I had time to write letters.
By summer solstice all of those letters, and the stories and souls and substance they contained, were beginning to gather themselves into a much bigger conversation. Themes began to emerge. The longing of an older lesbian to be seen and remembered was answered and echoed by the call of a much younger queer writing to me in search of an elder. A letter from a lonely daughter found itself on my desk in the company of words from a proud and fearful father of a recently out trans son. Ex-evangelicals and the excommunicated were both communing in my email inbox, waiting for an answer. Some of the letters I wrote took me days to compose, and tinker with and tweak. I took deep breaths and long showers, and even longer walks. I wanted my replies to these letters to be perfect, especially the ones that I had been keeping safe for five or eight or even eleven years before crafting the kind of answers that they so deserved.
By the time September waned and became October, and it was time to prune back the faded green stalks of summer and get the garden ready for the snow to return, the much anticipated yet still somehow shocking second wave struck the world. I was afraid, but not like I had been in April. The unimaginable was now strangely familiar. I found myself always tired, even though I had much more time to sleep.
By this time those letters and my responses had merged themselves into the manuscript for this book. I started the process of contacting all of the letter writers by phone or text or email or Zoom, to ask them if they would consent to their letter to me being included in this now very extended and intentional conversation. A conversation with a remarkable collection of writers about family, and memory, and addiction, and loss, and joy, and forgiveness. A long conversation made possible by the simple and profound power of having the time to listen to each other.
None of the letters I received would have been addressed to me if I wasn’t a traveller, a storyteller, a writer-downer of things and people I’ve met, and places I’ve been. Stories and the stage have in some way brought all of the beautiful people you are about to meet in these pages into my life. But most of the responses I wrote back to them would never have come out of me if the world hadn’t forced most of us to stop and stay in one place for these last long and lonely months.
Those months, for me, were made far less lonely by the process of connecting and conversing with the twenty people who kindly agreed to include bits of their own lives and truths in this book. These letters, and the people who wrote them, were a lifeline for me, an antidote, a cure for the sudden stillness of the wheels under me. Our stories can still travel, I tell myself every morning, watching the weeks wax and then wane through our kitchen window. I now know the names of most of my neighbours in this place I never meant to be in for long.
[…]It is early January as I write this. The sidewalks here are slippery with a skiff of snow that fell this morning over the ice that gathered there last night. Spring seems still so far from this place. It feels too soon yet for me to dare imagine the world that the printed copy of this book will be released into.
I sincerely hope that by the time anyone is able to remove this book from a shelf and open these pages and begin to read them, that we will all be able to gather safely together again to thaw ourselves out, to stretch, to blink, to hug each other hard, and to listen to us all tell stories.
In the meantime, please write me a letter.
Finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award
"[Care Of] is an engaging and entertaing look into Coyote's life through their heartbreaking, hilarious, insightful, and etertaining responses." —Vancouver Sun
"Coyote has long worn their heart on their sleeve, but here, in words that feel like a whispered confidence, they reveal the true depths of their integrity, their honesty, and their, dare I say, soul. . . . a vital reminder of the value not only of connection, but of every story, every voice." —Toronto Star