Tomboy Survival Guide

Tomboy Survival Guide

Book - 2016
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Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction; Stonewall Book Award Honor Book winner; Longlisted for Canada Reads

Ivan Coyote is a celebrated storyteller and the author of ten previous books, including Gender Failure (with Rae Spoon) and One in Every Crowd , a collection for LGBT youth. Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, about how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don't fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels.

Ivan writes about their years as a young butch, dealing with new infatuations and old baggage, and life as a gender-box-defying adult, in which they offer advice to young people while seeking guidance from others. (And for tomboys in training, there are even directions on building your very own unicorn trap.)

Tomboy Survival Guide warmly recounts Ivan's past as a diffident yet free-spirited tomboy, and maps their journey through treacherous gender landscapes and a maze of labels that don't quite stick, to a place of self-acceptance and an authentic and personal strength.

Publisher: Vancouver :, Arsenal Pulp Press,, [2016]
ISBN: 9781551526560
Characteristics: 239 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm


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Mar 25, 2020

Ivan Coyote wishes to sit in a room with you and have a conversation about gender, the roles we play, Canada, and where an LGBTQ+ individual fits in. Coyote shares their struggles, and how they hope they can help you with yours. As you read Coyote’s eleventh book, Tomboy Survival Guide, you’ll hear their trademark narrative voice throughout the collection of stories and experiences. Humor breaks tension, excitement builds in stories of childhood adventures, and emotion is on every page. Honestly there are so many books about embracing identity which is so amazing! However, one book that is pretty similar is The Gay Revolution because it gives the history of hardships endured to pride and proudness for the LGBTQ community!

Jan 01, 2020

I would read this again. Ivan Coyote is the most humble person while telling their story.

lydia_holmes221 Apr 02, 2018

This memoir is how memoirs should be.

Feb 19, 2018

This is a must read for everyone. It will challenge you to empathize and understand our journey as humans. We are all in this together - and this book gives an unusual raw perspective of another human's life.

Jan 30, 2018

I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a glimpse of the challenges faced by transgendered people. But it's also about growing up and navigating family relationships. The book is written in a way that makes you feel that you are having a conversation across a coffee table with the author. And for those of us who live in Vancouver, it's fun to read about our city featured in many of the stories.

Sep 02, 2017

This book is a collection of very short essay type stories where the author tells us about growing up queer/trans in a small town in the Yukon. It is generously written with honesty and simplicity and is very charming at times. There are so many ways that a person might connect with this author. If you can relate to growing up in a small remote community, or if you have gender challenges, or if you know what it feels like to not quite fit in...the list goes on. Unfortunately, I didn't make any of those connections, so although I appreciated the sentiments of the author, I really never felt like he was speaking to me and I felt uninterested. I would still recommend this because I think a lot of people would enjoy hearing about Ivan Coyote's thoughts and experiences. He comes through as a very likable person.

SPL_Shauna Jun 25, 2017

Honestly, I can't think of anyone reading YA or adult lit that this book isn't perfect for. Are you a young person questioning your identity? An adult who had a rough go of it in high school? Or just someone lucky enough to fit into gender categories fairly neatly, but who's interested in understanding others' lives better? Bingo. This book is for you.

Written in short, autobiographical vignettes themed around growing into a trans identity, Coyote approaches tough issues through a compassionate, funny and sometimes sexy lens. The prose is compulsively readable. Even when justifiably angry, Coyote's voice is thoroughly humane and wonderfully warm. Highly recommended to anyone. Honestly. The hold button's right over there - if you're at all curious, just click it. You're welcome.

UPDATE! There's now a full review of this under "Summary"

Jun 16, 2017

Read. This. Book.

Then tell a friend, a parent, a sibling, a co-worker or the person standing next to you at the bus stop about this amazing book you just read that you couldn't put down and you wished everyone was reading at the same time so we could all talk about it. Not because it is #pridemonth, but because it is that good, and we owe it to each other as citizens of this diverse world. #transbooks #LGBTQ

Dec 20, 2016

Ivan Coyote has a way of writing that makes it seem as if you are hearing the words straight from the author's mouth. I loved this book, and Ivan's way of sharing stories and anecdotes of growing up 'different' in small-town America makes it so easy to put yourself in the author's position- to question your own safety, to wonder why people say the things they do, and to have to put in a huge amount of effort to fit in. For those who grew up 'different' from their peers, this book is hugely relatable, and for those who enjoy beautifully-written short stories this will also hit the spot. Ivan is a natural-born storyteller, and this book is proof of that talent.


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SPL_Shauna Jul 14, 2017

Recently, I was in a reading slump of epic proportions. I didn’t want anything heavy; I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t want anything light, either – I’d just been through something that made anything too frivolous seem almost an insult. But, I needed a book; otherwise I’d be insufferable waiting in line anywhere. Literally anyone could be my victim, stuck chatting about anything. Bemoaning this very specific librarian problem to a colleague, she made a brilliant recommendation: Ivan Coyote’s 2016 memoir, Tomboy Survival Guide.
The content is indeed weighty. The memoir follows Coyote’s life growing up in Yukon and BC. Structured almost as short stories, different chapters offer meditations on bullying, sexual assault and harassment, the fate of women in the trades, the death of a grandmother. Shot through them all is a common thread of Coyote coming to understand - and find joy in – their identity as a transgender person.
And finding joy is key for Coyote. While that list of topics sounds a touch grim for summer reading, Coyote is master of the light touch (as anyone who attended Coyote’s talk at the Stratford Writers’ Festival last year already knows). When Coyote is angry, it’s the kind of anger that makes you snort-laugh. When sad, it’s the kind of blue lit from inside with hope. Mostly, though, Coyote is just really, really funny in a wry, warmhearted way that’s lovely to spend time with.
Coyote’s voice is naturally lyrical and personal, and so wise you can sort of see the path to being a better person when you’re done reading. The structure makes it easy to dip in and out of anywhere you might be this summer, and it’s small enough to tuck into your bag and take with you. Tomboy Survival Guide is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys memoir and nonfiction.

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