Danika reviews One In Every Crowd by Ivan Coyote

Note: I found this post saved as a draft instead of posted! It was supposed to be posted in September! Oops!

Ivan E. Coyote was one of the first authors I ever recommended on the Lesbrary, and she continues to be one of my favorites. I was, of course, really excited to hear that she was writing a new book, and intrigued by the idea of it being her first young adult book. I was interested to see how this book would differ from her others, since I discovered Coyote’s writing in high school, and I think that her books are well suited for a high school audience any way. As I should have expected, One In Every Crowd does not differ dramatically from Coyote’s other collections. It is, of course, marketed differently, and the stories are well chosen for a young audience. Many of the stories talk about her own childhood, while others feature other teenagers and children she has met, and more are just stories that appeal to everyone, like stories about her family. One well-loved character that gets a lot of space in One In Every Crowd is Francis, the charming, dress-wearing little boy that features in several of Coyote’s books.

Like all of her books, One In Every Crowd is easy to read and, well, comforting. Ivan E. Coyote is often described as a “kitchen table” storyteller, and you definitely get that sense in these stories. It’s as if you’re getting to hear all of uncle Ivan’s stories while gathered around your grandmother’s table. Coyote has a fantastic blend of queer and small-town northerner that makes it seem like those two are not at all opposing. Even re-reading some of these stories for the second or third time, I still found myself tearing up at places or grinning while reading.

Speaking of re-reads, however, that is the only complaint I have with this collection. I am used to many of Coyote’s stories being printed in several collections, so I didn’t expect all the stories to be new, but I didn’t expect the majority of the stories to be ones that had already been included in other collections. (The back cover promises “Comprised of new stories and others culled from previous collections”. Technically, two new stories is plural, but…) Maybe I am just remembering stories that Ivan E. Coyote told at readings that hadn’t actually been printed before, or maybe I’m used to her writing style and incorrectly assume that I’ve read a story before, or possible they’re stories that were in her newspaper column, but by my count, there was only one story included that I didn’t recognize, as well as a reprinted email that was written to Ivan E. Coyote by a teenager. I guess that I assumed that appealing to a new audience would mean new material specifically for that audience, not a repackaging of other material. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think One In Every Crowd is valuable; I think it’s a fantastic collection of some of Coyote’s best stories, and I think it’s a collection and arrangement that really makes sense to introduce a teenager to her writing. I just wish I had known beforehand, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of new material. Again, though, I’m fairly sure reading Ivan E. Coyote’s column and going to readings has something to do with this, so it could be just me personally.

One more note: I don’t know what to think of that email. I’m not sure why it’s included in the collection. It is titled “Letter Fr Grammar Wizard” and includes all of the many grammatical and spelling errors that were in the original email. The email itself is about the email writer’s ideas about how to stop bullying, as well as a little bit about their own experiences with bullying. They are good suggestions, but I didn’t find the email to have anywhere near the same power as Coyote’s stories. I just felt vaguely uncomfortable by the title and the decision to leave in all the errors. It almost seemed mocking, which I know wasn’t the intent, but it still struck a weird chord.

I still would definitely recommend One In Every Crowd, especially as a young person’s introduction to Ivan E. Coyote’s work, but I would caution against expecting a lot of new material from this collection.