Nonfiction by a Trans or Non-Binary Author
By Calyssa Erb
What I love most about reading nonfiction are those moments of connection. When you read about a specific experience the author has had and the feelings around that experience, and you realize oh, I’ve felt that too. It feels like getting to reach across an infinite distance and shake someone else’s hand or hug them. As a queer person, this feeling of connection through books has been particularly helpful for me while I’ve been unable to be with my community during the lockdown.
So, this month, in honour of Pride, we’re reading nonfiction by a trans or non-binary author. These authors have opened up their hearts about the things closest to them: spanning topics from parenthood to creative expression, they show us the specificity in our differences and the things that connect us as humans.
Care Of, by Ivan Coyote (Available on Audible Canada)
Writer and performer Ivan Coyote has spent decades on the road, telling stories around the world. For years, Ivan has kept a file of the most special communications received from readers and audience members – letters, Facebook messages, emails, soggy handwritten notes tucked under the windshield wiper of their truck after a gig. Then came spring 2020, and, like artists everywhere, Coyote was grounded by the pandemic, all their planned events cancelled. The energy of a live audience, a performer’s lifeblood, was suddenly gone. But with this loss came an opportunity for a different kind of connection. Those letters that had long piled up could finally begin to be answered.
Care Of combines the most powerful of these letters with Ivan’s responses, creating a body of correspondence of startling intimacy, breathtaking beauty, and heartbreaking honesty and openness. Taken together, they become an affirming and joyous reflection on many of the themes central to Coyote’s celebrated work – compassion and empathy, family fragility, non-binary and trans identity, and the unending beauty of simply being alive, a giant love letter to the idea of human connection, and the power of truly listening to each other.
Dear Senthuran, by Akwaeke Emezi (Available on Audible Canada)
A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times-bestselling author, “a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self” (Esquire).
In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the harrowing yet resolute truths of their own life. Through candid, intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world. Their story weaves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, their precipitous path to success as a writer, and the turmoil of relationships on an emotional, romantic, and spiritual plane, culminating in a book that is as tender as it is brutal.
Electrifying and inspiring, animated by the same voracious intelligence that distinguishes their fiction, Dear Senthuran is a revelatory account of storytelling, self, and survival.
The Conscious Creative, by Kelly Small (Available on Audible Canada)
An actionable guide to mindfulness and practical ethics for any creative professional who wants to make a living without selling their soul.
It can be difficult to live according to our values in a complicated world. At a time when capitalism seems most unforgiving but the need for paying work remains high, it is important to learn how we can be more mindful and intentional about our impact – personal, social, economic, and environmental.
As designer and creative director Kelly Small had to do to navigate a crisis of ethics and burnout in their career in advertising, we can admit our complicity in problematic systems and take on the responsibility of letting our own conscience guide our decisions.
Start with one or many of these 100+ rigorously researched, ultra-practical action steps:
- Co-create and collaborate
- Get obsessed with accessibility
- Demand diverse teams
- Commit to self-care
- Make ethics a competitive edge
- Be mindful of privilege
- Create for empowerment, not exploitation
With a humorous and irreverent tone, Small reveals how when we release unnecessary judgement and become action-oriented, we can clarify the complicated business of achieving an ethical practice in the creative industries. Discover the power of incremental, positive changes in our daily work-lives and the fulfillment of purposeful work.
Like A Boy But Not A Boy, by andrea bennett
A revelatory book about gender, mental illness, parenting, mortality, bike mechanics, work, class, and the task of living in a body.
Inquisitive and expansive, Like a Boy but Not a Boy explores author andrea bennett’s experiences with gender expectations, being a non-binary parent, and the sometimes funny and sometimes difficult task of living in a body. The book’s fourteen essays also delve incisively into the interconnected themes of mental illness, mortality, creative work, class, and bike mechanics (apparently you can learn a lot about yourself through trueing a wheel).
In “Tomboy,” andrea articulates what it means to live in a gender in-between space, and why one might be necessary; “37 Jobs 21 Houses” interrogates the notion that the key to a better life is working hard and moving house. And interspersed throughout the book is “Everyone Is Sober and No One Can Drive,” sixteen stories about queer millennials who grew up and came of age in small Canadian communities.
With the same poignant spirit as Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide, Like a Boy addresses the struggle to find acceptance, and to accept oneself; and how one can find one’s place while learning to make space for others. The book also wonders what it means to be an atheist and search for faith that everything will be okay; what it means to learn how to love life even as you obsess over its brevity; and how to give birth, to bring new life, at what feels like the end of the world.
With thoughtfulness and acute observation, andrea bennett reveals intimate truths about the human experience, whether one is outside the gender binary or not.