A One Book initiative is a community event designed to inspire conversation and create a dialogue about important topics through the shared experience of reading. This is the first region wide literacy event in Niagara. As the first guest One Book, One Niagara is elated to introduce seasoned author and spoken word performer Ivan Coyote.
Like many performers and creators, Coyote experienced the abrupt halt of outlets for crowd interaction at the onset of the pandemic. When uncertainties were the only constant, they began participating in online gigs. It was during one of these events that, out of isolation and missing the energy of performing, Coyote off-handedly said, “Write me a letter” not realizing how many would take the comment to heart.
This brings us to Brock University at the Grand Finale of the One Book, One Niagara event featuring Ivan Coyote’s most recent work, Care Of. The book is a collection of responses written by Coyote to the many letters that they received, the oldest being eleven years old. The correspondence is full of compassion, reflection, non-binary and transgender identity and the connections found in empathy. If you’re curious how Care Of came to be the first selection for this community-forward initiative, I urge you to visit your local library or independent bookstore for a copy. The only way to know is to become absorbed in the words of Coyote.
“The process of writing was a meditation,” Coyote said as they described how the book came to be. As a spoken word performer, Coyote takes the audience through each moment, as if the letter lays open on their lap and you’re reading along together. The Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at Brock University was silent, guests leaning on one another as Coyote read from Care Of. Fluidly, Coyote immersed the audience in their world; the pain, the love, the compassion and the hope, radiating from their voice. A pair of guests held hands, squeezing as Coyote read a letter in response to Victoria, an individual sharing their beautiful and at times humorous story of attending an event of Coyote’s in their first wig. Coyote writes, “I hope you are only finding love as you unwrap yourself.” The theatre remained still as words filled the space among the listeners. There was laughter and tears mixed together, hearts swelling at the tenderness and openness in the letters both to and from Coyote.
The evening closed with care and thoughtfulness as Coyote thanked the many libraries that have supported their work and allowed for community accessibility. The lobby of the theatre quickly overflowed into the hall as the audience lined up to share small stories with Coyote and have their books signed. Attendees came from near and far to share in the love that Coyote so generously offered. Thank you to our sponsors of the One Book, One Niagara initiative: Niagara Community Foundation, Meridian Credit Union, The Writer’s Union of Canada, Brock University, Niagara College Canada and all Niagara public libraries. Lastly and exceptionally, thank you to Ivan Coyote for being vulnerable and open in your work to allow for a truly salient discussion.
This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!