Ivan Coyote recounts their time growing up a tomboy in Northern Canada as well as the struggle they endured – and continue to endure – surrounding their gender identity.
It’s not often I’ll approach a writer eleven books deep into their catalog without beginning at the beginning but given this is more of a catch-all memoir in the style of popular modern essay writers like David Sedaris, Tomboy Survival Guide was as good a spot as any to approach Ivan.
Stories like this are a sobering reminder that while I did have some hardship growing up, they’re peanuts compared to the adversity some have faced. The stories contained in this book run the gamut from touching to humorous to downright upsetting. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be on the other end of the treatment Ivan received from the close-minded and homophobic as they made their way through their early years. Ivan would have to have grown some thick skin to deal with this level of harassment.
Even though Ivan would have to have hardened up during their life, the book never feels aggressive or adversarial. It very much feels like a discussion with the author, something that many people desperately need to truly understand where someone like Ivan is coming from. Sure, we may have progressed a lot as a society in 2019 in terms of inclusion, there are always going to be people who shut down those who feel or express themselves differently. My favorite story in the whole book deals with this type of person – or so Ivan thought. After speaking at a school, Ivan is approached by a man who opposed Ivan’s views and had been worried about what Ivan may say in front of his child. I won’t further spoil it, but it’s a great moment that certainly speaks to misconception.
There are several books that precede this one by the author – as well as a new one titled “Rebent Sinner” – that I now plan to check out. However, I can say that I definitely recommend Tomboy Survival Guide.