The Next Chapter

Leslie Stein's I Know You Rider asks questions about abortion that society is reluctant to answer

The Canadian author and cartoonist talks to Shelagh Rogers about writing a memoir about deciding whether or not to have kids.
I Know You Rider is a comic by Leslie Stein. (Drawn & Quarterly)

This segment originally aired on Nov. 7, 2020.

Leslie Stein is a New York-based Canadian author and cartoonist. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker and the Best American Comics anthology. Her memoir, I Know You Riderbegins at an abortion clinic and takes readers through a year in her life, as she questions the decision to reproduce.

I Know You Rider speaks to a childhood friend about raising twins in an environmentally conscious household, to a man undergoing a vasectomy so his wife can stop using birth control and to her mother, who longs to be a grandmother.

I Know You Rider was among CBC Books's picks for the top Canadian comics of 2020.

Stein spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing I Know You Rider.

Starting a dialogue

"What I usually try to do with short stories is pick something that's universal and then tell my story that relates to that in order to open up a dialogue. A lot of the stories in I Know You Rider were first published online. I was interacting with a lot of different people and shocked to hear that so many people had similar experiences to me. 

As a storyteller, and as someone who wants to make things that are positive in the world, that seemed like something that was worthwhile to explore even when it was painful.

"When I had the experience of an unplanned pregnancy and abortion — and later learned that one out of four women do have abortions when they find out they're pregnant — that felt universal to me.

"And yet, people are reluctant to talk about it. I understand why, because it's quite difficult. As a storyteller, and as someone who wants to make things that are positive in the world, that seemed like something that was worthwhile to explore even when it was painful."

Differing opinions

"What I was trying to do was showcase different opinions on abortion. You have my character talking about not wanting to have children for specific reasons. That coexists with other people having wonderful reasons why they want to have children. 

What I was trying to do was showcase different opinions on abortion.

"I wanted to make sure that it's not just my story, but that I'm acknowledging other people's stories in relation to reproduction. One of the men I talked to in the book had a vasectomy when he was only 30 years old because he was so sure he didn't have children. 

"I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition with my story." 

An excerpt from I Know You Rider by Leslie Stein. (Drawn & Quarterly)

A sobering scene

"I decided to start at an abortion clinic because oftentimes when you see an abortion in a film or a book, you have someone wrestling with the 'should I or shouldn't I?' and that becomes the narrative. I wasn't interested in that being the narrative. 

"I wanted to let the reader know that, on Page One, that this is what you're getting — and then moving forward, learning about a story through that, but also taking people through different narratives."

Leslie Stein's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now