Young Adult EducationIt Gets Better: ‘The Letter Q' edited by Sarah MoonKerry Winfrey

Do you ever wish you could write a letter to your younger self? You know, maybe say something like, “Get bangs, be nicer to your parents and, for God’s sake, stop wearing all those studded belts!” Okay, so maybe those are just the things I would say to my younger self. The point is that adolescence can be difficult, but sometimes you have to deal with things a little trickier than studded belts. Like, for example, realizing you’re gay, coming out to your parents, dealing with bullies and accepting yourself.

The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon, contains queer writers’ letters to their younger selves. Writers like Michael Cunningham, Armistead Maupin, Amy Bloom, David Levithan, Gregory Maguire and Brian Selznick imagine what they’d like to tell their past selves about their current lives. Their stories and advice are alternately hopeful, heartbreaking and funny. Most of all, these letters are helpful for the kids in middle school and high school today who are dealing with the same problems. Whether its bullying, embarrassment, difficult parents or the shame that comes along with ignoring who you are inside, these writers have been through it all. From their vantage point on the other side of adolescence, they have one overarching message to send back: it gets better. Eventually, they say to their younger selves and anyone else who might be reading, you’ll find friends who accept you. Your parents will understand, even if it might take them awhile. You’ll find someone who loves you just as much as you love them. Isn’t that what any high school kid, gay or straight, wants to hear?

Many of the authors repeat the same advice: be yourself, love yourself, accept yourself. Oh, and buy stock in Apple.

Admittedly, just about every book I read makes me cry, but if you don’t tear up at this one then you might just be a robot. David Levithan’s letter, about the complexity of bullying, was particularly good and Armistead Maupin’s letter about Demigods magazine was hilarious. Eileen Myles shares some advice in her letter that’s perfect for recent graduates (if only this was in a commencement speech!): “Know that your destiny is to live your life, not theirs, and though it hurts to leave home you will always find a bigger better one that is your own. The world is open to you, unbelievably. You are great, funny, beautiful and completely wild. And you are already big enough and strong enough and wise enough to make a go in it and become part of its story. So start talking now.”

Some Highlights:

-Several of the letter writers featured are artists, so the book features comics as well as traditional essays.

-This may be a bit superficial, but check out that cover! HelloGiggles colors!

-By buying this book, you’ll be doing good: half of the royalities from the sale of each copy will go toward The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

-You can watch the (very emotional!) book trailer and find The Letter Q on Facebook.

Have you read The Letter Q? Will you be checking it out? Let me know! And as always, I love to hear your suggestions about what old and new YA books you’d like to see in the column. E-mail me at youngadulteducation@gmail.com, find me on twitter @KerryAnn or leave a comment.

Image via Arthur A. Levine Books

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