Award-winning storyteller and recently retired Xtra columnist Ivan Coyote launches her new book of short stories for young adults on Thursday, May 3 at the WISE Hall with a talent show for youth. Doors open at 7pm; all ages welcome.
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to One in Every Crowd.
Dear Kid I Was:
Hey there. It’s me. I mean you. It is you/me, writing to me/you, from the future. We are almost 43, and I sure do wish there was a way for me to get this message from future me to past you, but so far, humankind hasn’t invented anything like that yet, not that I know of, anyway, so all I can do is write this letter and put it in the front of this book, and just maybe it might help out some other poor kid who feels all alone, just like you and I did, way back when.
I am hoping this letter might let them know that they are not the only one. Dear Every Kid Who Picks Up This Book: You are not the only one.
You know how you always loved Dolly Parton? Even though she was really your mom’s favourite first, and that is supposedly kind of uncool, right, to have the same favourite records as your mother, but who cares? It is Dolly. And one day you will go on to learn that it turns out she really is very cool, and even better, she is a survivor. Dolly Parton came from poverty, like, real poverty, and recorded her first songs when she was 13 years old. She worked and worked and was smart, and used her brains and her voice and her body and her big breasts, and she built something for herself. And for her family, too. She always took care of her family. We have that in common, you and me and Dolly.
Anyway, Dolly has a quote I love, and I want you to hear it now, and know it. It goes: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
One surefire way to figure out who you are is to never listen to anyone else tell you who or what you can be. Never let someone else decide for you what you are capable of being. Remember when that one music teacher told you that girls don’t make good drummers? Well, turns out he was wrong. I am here to tell you that he was very wrong about that. In many other ways he turned out to be a great saxophone teacher, but he was profoundly wrong about the drumming thing. Right now, future you is in an all-butch choir, and you are singing and drumming and strumming your bursting heart right out, and it is a beautiful thing. I only wish that we hadn’t listened to the guy who told us when we were 13 that girls couldn’t play drums, because then I would have started playing them 30 years ago.
Past me, I know you have not accepted this about yourself yet, but I am here to tell you that you are queer, and not only is this fact about us nothing to be ashamed of, it will go on to be one of the things that teaches future you/me so much about the world, and about what is really important. Things like love and truth and honesty and compassion and respecting others who are different than you and friendship and community and chosen family.
So I am going to need you to do me a favour, like I said. I need you to go and find those kids they are picking on even worse than they are picking on you right now. I need you to be kind to them. Even when this means taking a risk with what is left of your own coolness at school.
… Because trust me, no one ever gets to be 43 and thinks about their life and what it all means, and wishes that they had stood aside more often and allowed more injustice to happen to more already struggling kids while they were back in high school.