15 January 2011

Book 7: Missed Her

Title: Missed Her
Author: Ivan Coyote
Publisher/Year: Arsenal Pulp Press / 2010
Date Finished: 14 January 2011
Source/Format: Borrowed / Print

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges:GLBT(Q) Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
Missed Her is a short, but moving, collection of personal stories focused on Coyote's experiences as a queer, butch, storyteller living on Canada's west coast. Each essay is succinct, powerful, and entertaining.

A Bit of a Ramble
Typically when I read a collection of short stories - whether fiction or nonfiction - a few stand out as favorites, a few as giant pieces of yuck, and the rest sort of blend into moderateness. Not so with this book. I really enjoyed every story in it, and Coyote set up each tale the way I like: sort of a blend between a short story and a personal essay. I think Amy from Amy Reads said it best: "Missed her is a collection of short stories that aren’t really, in my mind, short stories the way I think of them. They are more quick memories. A collection of stories about memories, perhaps."

Each chapter (story) is quickly told, just a few pages, but the memory it is relating, the story it is telling, is beautifully told despite the brevity (or maybe because of it). Jackie Wong from Straight.com believes that Coyote's "intimate storytelling seldom grows tired, and her wry, unadorned writing style is unique in its conversational simplicity." That conversational simplicity really stood out to me as one of the joys of the book.

I firmly believe that the greatest truths can be told in the simplest ways. For example, I have an obsession, a healthy one, with the relationship between truth, fact, fiction and nonfiction. Coyote manages to break down my thoughts in a few simple sentences:
It is a true story in the same way that an old vase that is broken into pieces in the sink and glued back together holds water. Maybe, maybe not. But it is no less beautiful to look at. This is what I think I know.
The truth of a situation is not necessarily bound up in the facts, and I appreciated the acknowledgment of this, especially since it was related through a wonderful metaphor. Much of the writing is like this: short, simple, and profound.

This book also gave me the kick in the pants I needed to write up a post on my thoughts about a straight person reading and reviewing queer literature. In the past year, with the number of GLBTQ books I've been reviewing going up on the blog, I have received a few emails questioning this choice (from homophobes who think I am going to hell, from queer-identified people who are insulted that I am straight, etc.). But more on that in a later post... My motivation came from one of the stories in Coyote's book called “Some of My Best Friends Are Rednecks." The story focuses on one of Coyote's friends; he "has long, brown hair and a kind of bushy beard. He is from a working-class coal mining town in the southern US. He looks a bit like a good old boy. Like a redneck straight white guy." While reading one of Coyote's books on a bus, he is attacked by another passenger. She asks him: "Do you know the author of that book is a lesbian? Why would someone like you want to read a lesbian book? What is in it for you?" The aforementioned emails and one face-to-face conversation I have had was in the same vein: Why would a straight person read a queer book? In monsieur redneck's instance, he was being accused of appropriating the queer culture, and Coyote makes it perfectly clear that this is ridiculous. Thank you.

One of the best things about this book is the delicate balancing act Coyote plays between making this an "issues" book and just a damn good collection of stories. Cass from Bonjour, Cass! says that "this collection captures a very important image of what it’s like to be a queer person in way that many GLBTQ novels have not been able to do because they so often focus on a sensationalized idea of what being a queer person means in a homophobic society." I couldn't agree more. The stories in Missed Her are not spectacle; they feel real, sincere, and entirely relatable.



  1. Unbelievable that people would get their dander up from your reading GLBTQ. Would they criticize if you read black literature, or stories about hispanics? Please. I love that this author's name is Coyote and I love that cover. Great review!

  2. I'm not normally a sh ort story collection fan at all, but this year I've decided to take some time to read through all the ones on my shelves - one story per day. I have enough to last me through part of RIP season, but after that, I have nothing to read. I'm going to keep this one in mind, especially as you say every story is good. That's how I felt about the Jhumpa Lahiri collection I read!

  3. I've had Coyote's book on my TBR list since I first watched/heard some of her poetry on Youtube. She's an amazing storyteller.

    I'm sorry that you've received negative feedback because of your reading/reviewing of GLBTQ literature. Some people are afraid of what they don't understand, and that fear can manifest itself in all sorts of horrible ways -- from sending a nasty email to a blogger, to committing a hate crime.

    Read and talk about the books you want to -- it's part of your rights as a human being. If people don't like it, they can take their negativity elsewhere.

    I can't wait to pick up Missed Her.

  4. a) I love when you quote other reviews and make us sound so much smarter than we are. b) "Straight.com"? c) It is rather amusing that there was an essay that spoke to something you had an immediate need for (ie being assured that being straight and reading queer books isn't a problem) and so did Amy (the essay about what to do after you've broken up). Oh Ivan Coyote, you're basically awesome.

  5. This is really tempting. I have added it to my TBR list.
    Those comments you're getting are so narrow minded. What next? We should only read books from our own country maybe?

  6. Great review of a fantastic book! And OMG re bad responses. I've actually avoided that so far... less traffic though than you so that might have something to do with it. I feel awful lucky, and CANNOT WAIT to read your post!!

  7. I love these. Thanks for posting. That quote about the vase is amazing.

  8. Amy really made me want to read this, and now you had to go and add to the peer pressure ;) Excellent review, Trisha. As for straight folks reading glbtq books, how about because we're all human beings? I look forward to your post on the subject!

  9. I'm just learning to appreciate short stories and this collection definitely interests me.

  10. Sandy - Exactly!

    Amanda - I really liked this one and I typically don't like short story collections either!

    Bookzilla - I agree. If they don't like what I'm posting, they don't have to read it.

    Cass - LOL! I had never heard of Straight.com, and honestly I still don't know what it is. I just found the review on there. :) I love it when a book applies to real life so perfectly!

    Em - From this point forward, we can only read books written by authors who are exactly like us about people who are exactly like us. :)

    Amy - LOL! You get a seriously larger amount of traffic than I do!

    Vicky - It really struck me!

    Ana - I love peer pressure!

    Kathy - It's a really great collection, so I definitely recommend picking it up.

  11. You've convinced me. I want to read this. Thanks

  12. Pfff! That doesn't leave many books, does it?
    I am actually reading The Birth House by Amy McKay at the moment. I wonder what people would have to say about that. I am not a mother, nor a midwife, and don't aspire to become any of these. Plus I don't live in Canada and have no Canadian ancestry. I wonder why I bother reading it at all!

  13. Care - Yay! I get so happy when I convince someone to read a book.

    Em - You must put the book down right now because there is just absolutely no way you could possibly relate to it. :)

  14. This totally sounds like something I need to read. What hooked me was your assertion that every story in this book was a winner. I often feel lukewarm about short story collections because of the ratio of good to bad stories, and this is a book where I think my expectations will be exceeded. Great post on this book. I am adding this one to my list.

  15. I'm not normally a sh ort story collection fan at all, but this year I've decided to take some time to read through all the ones

  16. Please. I love that this author's name is Coyote and I love that cover. Great review.... Thanks...


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