The ‘Dear Me’ series of books all started with a letter written by Stephen Fry to his sixteen-year-old self in Attitude magazine. The books took the concept and extended it to a host of mid-level celebrities. Some are wonderful, some are pointless, some are surprising. My favourites, unsurprisingly, are those from the gay celebrities–I may be biased, but it feels like their letters contained the most hope, the most advice, and were the most ‘necessary’. And now we have The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon, and containing the letters of a whole host of American LGBT writers, some of whom I have heard of (David Levithan, Brent Hartinger, Michael Cunningham, David Leavitt, Armistead Maupin), some of whom I have not. And so I present my review in the form of a letter:
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me,
I’m sending you this book to help you out. You know you’re gay, and I think you’re somewhere past the point where marrying a woman and keeping your mouth shut for the rest of your life seems like a good option. You don’t actually know what your option is going to be, but you’re about to get a kicking from first love, so everything’s about to become very very clear and very very confusing.
Why will this book help you out? Because it contains hope. Because it contains the words of forty people who’ve experienced the same thing as you. Listen to them talk: listen to the care in their voices when they talk to themselves at a younger age. They know the pain you and they experienced, they know the awkward separation, the feeling of simply not being able to be the same no matter how hard you try. Why fix all the other things that set you apart when there will always be on simple thing?
And here’s what every single one of them says: you will find love. You will be joyful. You will be hurt, but it will make you stronger. You will live, and it will be wild, and it will be unpredictable, and it will work out. You will be happy.
And maybe this is the forte of writers (but after all, that’s what you’ve wanted to be since you stapled together your ramshackle novels at age six) but heed how many of them tell you that it is the otherness that makes them special, that makes them write, that makes them capable of seeing and understanding human behaviour, sympathising and transforming. They all took what they thought was a weakness, and turned it into a strength.
Hold onto it, and love this book, like I did.
I’ll write again soon, with a little more useful information, but in the meantime, let this be your guide.
Love from your future self.