This isn’t a novel. This is a collection of letters, written by some of the greatest queer authors of the day, to their younger selves. As such, I don’t recommend sitting down and reading it from cover to cover. Keep it tucked away in your backpack or purse or briefcase, and pull it out when you need a warm fuzzy or a pep talk or simply a few moments of enjoyment.
Each letter is unique. Some even take the form of comics. They tackle all the issues you’d expect: bullying, coming out, sex, and all the emotions that go with them: shame, fear, anger, and eventually pride and contentment.
Some of the authors include Tales of the City’s Armistead Maupin, Wicked’s Gregory Maguire, A Density of Souls’ Christopher Rice, and Love! Valour! Compassion’s Terrence McNally. I will admit I gravitated more to the male writers, but every voice has its own remarkable story. Plus, the variety of writers opens up windows of time over the last 50 years, so that underneath their letters of support and advice, there’s a story of the evolution of the gay rights movement.
These stories aren’t only for kids who are coming out in high school. There are always lessons we can learn, there are always journeys our mind can take. Visiting our old selves can sometimes help put our current problems in perspective. Everything that was so end-of-the-world at the time, turned out not to be. The world kept turning, we got wiser, we got stronger. It got better.
One of the stories that resonated with me most was, of course, Christopher Rice, maybe because we’re the same age, maybe because we both love writing. Maybe because his warning about “the endless party that is the gay nightlife, that always moving train of music, dancing, and drugs that will promise you everything and deliver nothing” is something I wish I had understood better. More than a year into my sobriety, as I have begun to “build a life that feeds [my] soul instead of devouring it”, there are a few lessons I would go back and tell that old me too.
What’s more, half of the royalties from the sale of this book will go towards supporting the Trevor Project’s mission of reaching LGBT and Questioning youth in crisis. So not only is it a series of good reads, it’s for a good cause. And it delivers nuggets of wisdom and truth that are as important for teens struggling with their sexuality, with bullying, with their parents, with themselves, as they are for all us. A wisdom as simple as treating others how you want to be treated. A truth as simple as the fact that it does get better, slowly maybe, and not without bumps along the way, but constantly and consistently better.
Submitted By: Rob B. Follow him on Twitter @robbrowatzke
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