Close to Spider Man: stories, Ivan E. Coyote, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2005 (second printing)

93 pages.

What I enjoy about Ivan Coyote’s stories is their unwrapped honesty.

The book says these are fictional stories, but they seem so much like memoir that you might feel truth hovering around the floor of every story.

Most of these stories take place in Whitehorse. Chronologically, they chart the life of one woman through the gender obstacle course that our parents and friends unknowingly put us through — and go through themselves. For some, that course is easy — they are boys and like girls and cars; they are girls and like boys and dolls.

The main character of this collection of linked stories is a tomboy in the purest sense and finds ways of circumventing gender collars in favour of exploring other possibilities. She plays a boy during swimming lessons. She dons her uncle’s clothes while he’s not at home. She pursues love and it is raw and sometimes unforgiving. But the narrator keeps moving toward a better understanding of herself.

And she’s not afraid of what she will find, and not afraid that we are there.

* * *

I admire Coyote’s style here. Short vignettes. Some only two pages in length. None really over seven. She has turned these stories into spoken word pieces — and they read like she’s talking right to you.

She has the finest word choices, the clearest images, the most natural voice.

They are perfect for the memoir reader who has only small chunks of time to read, perfect to learn about writing memoir.

The conversational tone eliminates any barriers to understanding the narrator — even if you are not a queer girl from the Yukon. The tone invites you in.

She’s really speaking about universal feelings here. We’ve all butt up against parental expectations, we’ve had first crushes in elementary school, and heavier crushes in high school. This narrator is no different than I am.

In this way, she reaches out to even the most sceptical reader, who may not have had this narrator’s history, and says, I’m just another kid in small town Canada (or small town America for that matter. I dare you to find anything in these stories that couldn’t be in small town Midwest America. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

* * *

But what is even better, though, than her common human experience, is her very unique experience as a queer woman. This is the book to get your friend who wants to understand what it is to grow up queer. Or what it means to struggle with and question what is most basic about being human — our sexuality. Every parent of a GLBT son or daughter should be invited to read this book.

Desire is so basic — you can trace it back to childhood.

Coyote takes us by the hand and walks us through a scrapbook of a girl’s childhood, through crisp, exciting, fresh scenes that may be both new, and yet strangely familiar.

I’m really proud to say this came from the Yukon.

Close to Spider Man is a slim volume, packed with beautiful, graceful moments.

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