Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family by Jane Byers – Reviewed by Stephanie Henriksen

Published by Caitin Press, 2020

Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family is a story that explores the author’s multi-faceted identity: a writer, poet, athlete, mother and lesbian, partner to a loving wife, and a member of an unconditionally loving non – traditional family. Her memoir challenges the popular notion that an ideal family consists of a mom and a dad, inspiring readers to live a life that is honest to who they are and not what society expects them to be. Organized as a series of personal essays with a sprinkle of poetry, the memoir reveals her journey towards finding her true identity, including finding the woman of her dreams and adopting magnetic twins, a boy and a girl, children of colour.

Small Courage offers a refreshing feminist perspective by sharing intimate details of Byers’ experience as a young woman growing up in Ontario in the 60’s and 70’s, discovering she was queer, and keeping aspects about herself hidden because society had yet to catch up. Same–sex marriage was legalized in Canada on July 20, 2005 and the author and her wife, filmmaker Amy Bohigian, celebrated by getting married.

Although this story is not told chronologically, Byers is able to weave together chapters of her life in a way that makes sense, asking empathy from her readers. The adoption process in Canada has systemic biases: Byers and her wife were at one point told they were not the ideal family. The twins, Franny and Theo, were previously fostered by Evangelical Christians who were skeptical of Byers and Bohigian early in the adoption process, but upon observing them as people with real feelings and honest intentions, they changed their opinion. The memoir offers a story of love and resilience; a coming out story that also explores the author’s tumultuous relationship with a member of her very own family.

Byers has spent most of her career helping people with disabilities and injuries to overcome barriers to employment, so while she knows love isn’t always enough, it is certainly a great place to start. For any parent or anyone considering adoption, or anyone who is a minority or just curious about the topics presented in the memoir, Small Courage will make you feel comforted. It will also make you believe in the power of love and adoption; how it is possible to change a child’s life by offering them a home. Overall, this memoir offers proof that diversity in love is a pleasant reality and that usually our greatest lessons come from our family members. 

Available online via Caitlin Press and via your local independent bookstores.

About the Author

Stephanie lives in Nelson, British Columbia with her partner Amos and her dog Hugo. Look for her nonfiction piece “Huck Yeah!” on the Black Bear Review Website.

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