What book would you recommend to readers?
Ivan E. Coyote’s Missed Her, published by Arsenal Pulp Press.
What is the book about?
Missed Her—a collection of short stories—calls into question gender norms and shatters the fragile glass box of gender identity. Ivan Coyote’s title of the last story in the collection, “Just a Love Story,” captures a predominant theme in most all of their stories. They are love stories—the blissful and the passionate, the maddening, the heartbreaking. Ivan Coyote tells these stories with humor, transparency, and an open and generous heart.
Can you describe your favourite part or element of the book?
The stories in Missed Her range from recollections of being butch in small-town Ontario, to being bedside at the death of their loving gran in the Yukon. Fully drawn into each created world of a story, I have never forgotten one in particular: “The Good Old Days.” Each time I read it, I get misty-eyed. In just over three pages, Coyote manages to weave together a creative writing class of students from disparate worlds: “forty … grey haired ladies (and a few gentlemen),” one who had “transition[ed] from male to female,” an “ex-military man, a boxer … a fan of facts [and] order,” “a lesbian,” an “Hungarian woman … who grew up during the Second World War.” Coyote also manages to weave together diverging details: wrinkles, good penmanship, the history inside their skin, reading and shaking and bifocals, a full body hug, a clitoris, crackers and hunger, Nazis. And of course, Kleenex. Lots and lots of Kleenex.
What makes it a “great read”? Why do you recommend this book to readers?
Ivan Coyote’s stories reach into the heart of the matter. Yes, Coyote is often searching for their place in the world, but Coyote’s search becomes our own—embracing our diversities and the queerness in us all. Above all, Coyote makes human connections—between themself and their family, with the bishop who calls Coyote “young fellow” and gives them a hug, to the silver-haired woman who brings them “Babybel cheeses” and “soda crackers” to their creative writing class each week.
We need the Ivan Coyotes—the stories in Missed Her—to show us how to open to each other, to find the soft spots between us and in our own selves.
Michelle Doege is a writer of poetry and creative non-fiction, an educator, and an engaged member of any literary community she calls home. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Augsburg College (Minneapolis), where she studied poetry and mixed genre writing. Most recently, she was awarded “Special Commendation” for her chapbook Tonewood from the Cedric Literary Awards (2016), and her story “End of a Rainbow” was published in Caitlin Press’s Wherever I Find Myself: Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women (2017). A teacher for twenty years, she has taught writing, literature, and women’s & multicultural studies at colleges and universities in Canada and the U.S. In life and writing, she listens closely—to the deep truths at the center of things—vibrating just beneath and beyond all the noise.