Book Review: The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves
Relatable missives are humorous, occasionally heartbreaking
The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon with Contributing Editor James Lecesne, is a new anthology which appears to be inspired by the It Gets Better movement. As you probably know by now, It Gets Better is a YouTube campaign (and book) that aims to reduce the risk of gay teen suicide. It Gets Better has recruited celebrities to create videos and/or write essays speaking directly to gay teens, essentially telling them, "Hey, look at me! Once I was a bullied teen and now I am a successful member of society with a good sense of self-esteem, great boyfriend/girlfriend, nice house in the Hamptons, etc. So hang in there, kid!" Not to completely negate the campaign's importance, but it can be hard for a bullied teen to be comforted by lifestyles that seems out of reach.
The Letter Q does things slightly differently. In this book, dozens of well-known names in the queer community compose letters to their childhood or teenage selves. For example, popular young adult author Malinda Lo tells herself not to get caught up in the heterosexual dating hype, while another young adult author, David Levithan, scolds himself for past homophobic behavior. There are also comic strips like "My Advice to Me (Listen Up!)" by Paige Braddock, in which the adult Paige tells the grade-school version of herself: "Don't feel bad about [being gay]...cause it's just part of who you are." Meanwhile, little Paige needles adult Paige for her terrible fashion choices.
What makes The Letter Q more entertaining and less depressing than It Gets Better is its approach. Sure, there are heavy subjects here, but the overall tone is funny and upbeat. By writing letters to their younger selves, the authors are forced to give detailed accounts of their former lives, making it easier for a teen to envision what that author went through. So give this book to your favorite queer kid or keep it for yourself—because sometimes life is hard for gay adults, even though, at this point, it is all supposed to get better.