The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves
Edited by Sarah Moon with contributing editor James Lecesne
Published 2012 by Arthur A. Levine Books (imprint of Scholastic)
Hardcover received for review from the publisher
Read May 2012
Summary From Publisher: In this anthology, sixty-four award-winning authors and illustrators such as Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Jacqueline, Woodson, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin, make imaginative journeys into their pasts, telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know then about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. Through stories, in pictures, with bracing honesty, these are words of love, messages of understanding, reasons to hold on for the better future ahead. They will tell you things about your favorite authors that you never knew before. And they will tell you about yourself.
Sixty four LGBT writers contributed to this anthology! If that doesn’t help you realize that We Are Everywhere, I don’t know what will.
If someone were to write a heartbreaking YA novel about me, they’d set it in my sixteenth year, the year my mother died and I started realizing I might be gay and Everything Changed Forever. So maybe it’s a little understandable when I tell you that the idea of writing to my sixteen year-old self is overwhelming. Oh, to swoop in on teenage me and let her know she makes it out of that terrible house, that terrible town, finds love, and spends her spare time writing a book blog and “entertaining” friends with Nixon facts.
As an adult, reading The Letter Q was more a thought experiment into what I’d say to teenage me than the stated intent of an anthology marketed to teens to remind them that, well, it gets better. I certainly can’t argue with that message.
I do have to point out that although the summary and the jacket copy mention that the authors are “telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know then about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people,” not a single contributor overtly mentions their experience as a trans person.
At its best, The Letter Q is an excellent companion anthology to Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s It Gets Better, and for those of us who are no longer teenagers, it’s a great mental exercise in “how could I help my teenage self?”
“How are you going to mail a letter to twenty years ago?” she said.
“I don’t know, ” I told her, finishing the sentence on the page. “But wouldn’t it be terrible, the day comes we learn how to ship something back in time, and we’ve got nothing to send? So first I thought I’d get the package ready. Next I’ll worry about the postage.”
How many times had I said to myself, it’s too bad I didn’t know this at age ten, if only I had learned that at twelve, what a waste to understand, twenty years late!
–p 24, The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach
Okay, I admit, Richard Bach has absolutely no connection to The Letter Q other than the coincidental circumstance wherein I am reading The Bridge Across Forever and I came across this quote and it seemed fitting.
Favorite Quote (From The Letter Q this time):
You see, love doesn’t end despair. It deepens the poignancy of it by opening your eyes to what there is to lose. — p. 59, Adam Haslett
Suggested further reading: It Gets Better edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller; How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart; Am I Blue? Coming Out From the Silence edited by Marion Dane Bauer
Scholastic has kindly offered to give two people copies of The Letter Q and an “It Gets Better” t-shirt beneffiting the It Gets Better Project! To enter, just fill out this Google form. Winners will be announced June 10th! (Sorry, this giveaway is U.S. only.)