A review by dessy331
The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to their Younger Selves by Sarah Moon


This was, truly, so wonderful.

"When you encounter people who have small minds or tiny hearts [...], try not to be too discouraged. Don't take it personally and don't waste time convincing yourself that they have the right idea. They don't. Remind yourself that they may be members of your species, but they do not belong to your tribe - and you won't belong to theirs. Go find your own people. And don't allow anyone to make you feel bad because of who you are. Ever."

This is a book's worth of personal letters from LGBT+ writers to their former selves, all sharing the distinct but not at all contrived message of: "it gets better" - so much better. I almost wish I'd saved this and read just one letter every time I had a bad day like Sarah Moon at the beginning of the story did. But nah, I read it all the way through in a couple days. I genuinely feel like this book should be on every LGBT+ person's shelf (although realistically not every teen is able to own a book with the word "queer" so clearly on its cover, I know), something that they can look at every day and be reassured that, although their current situation may be rough, look at all these people who've gone through it (and maybe worse) who now have wonderful, happy, fulfilled lives. I feel like those little reminders would be so vital to any young person struggling with their identity.

I especially loved Julie Anne Peters letter - and so many others, whose names I didn't stop to jot down but still loved.

There is some really solid and truthful advice in here that I think is so important - this book is obviously meant for LGBT+ kids but anyone really could gain something from reading it. I liked that there were different styles of letter, each unique to the writer. Some were funny and playful, some were dark and painful. Some were told in letters, some in comics.

"I'm still not entirely sure whether I use the word irony correctly, but I believe there's something exquisitely ironic about making fun of your non-gay teacher for being gay, and then going home and listening to Barbra Streisand's Broadway Album over and over again."

Many of them were very poignant, these are a collection of stories from people who've lived through the same confusing, often painful experience of being "different" and come out on the other side more well-rounded and insightful because of their struggles. What they have to say is important and useful to anyone who is having a hard time coming into their own identity - queer or otherwise. You may not be able to identify with their being LGBT+ but I feel like that struggle is universal for most kids. We all go through a time where we're unsure of ourselves and trying to figure out who we are and feeling like we're the only ones in the world who feel this way. It's a universal experience, I think.

"Feeling a little different, even unique, you too glibly assume that your task of being true to yourself is unprecedented in human history. It's easy (and sometimes fun) to wallow in sadness of being separate because it makes you seem that much more richly individual. If you can, try not to succumb to the narcissism of loneliness too much. Mind you take care of someone else while you're taking care of yourself. We all are struggling to release our souls from stone, like those sculptures of Michelangelo you will come to love. Each person doesn't turn out the same, of course, but we are all equally different."

I also appreciated that there was a good range of diverse perspectives, from gay/lesbian identifying writers, to bisexual, to people of all different races (and the unique challenges they face growing up LGBT+), non-binary, some not specifying their LGBT+ identities - I think there was also an intersex and trans writers but I can't remember 100%, there were a lot (over 60, I think). All offering their own advice to their younger selves, but also for the readers who might be in need of the same advice and reassurance that they did back then.

"Right now, you see things in black and white, and believe fervently in right or wrong. Heaven or hell, gay or straight, good or bad, boy or girl. But the world is not like that: nothing is permanent, and there are no definite answers, no single way of being. What if you could be handsome instead of pretty? [...] You'll discover that sexuality and gender do not stay still, but like clouds, shift and twist and open up in beautiful new ways."

Also, most of these writers grew up in a much harsher time than I did, so it was interesting - and horrifying - to see the challenges they faced growing up in a world that was so much less open minded than it is today (and by no means is today's society perfect). Many of the writers shared the experience of turning to literature to understand their sexuality - and being horrified and shamed by what those "educational" books told them about people like them. At least I didn't have to hear that homosexuality was a mental illness or that they were doomed to a life of misery and disease. Truly heartbreaking. But then again, I know future LGBT+ kids will look back on our generation's stories and be horrified at what we had to go through, and on and on and on, hopefully until we get to a future where LGBT+ kids don't have to suffer, at all, and they can remember the brave people that came before them and fought for that future for them: one coming out experience at a time, one legalized marriage battle won at a time, one rainbow flag raised at a time, one young confused teen trying to make sense of their feelings at a time.

"And by the way, in the future you will have many dogs, so don't regret that part of your past. The painful unanimalness of your childhood and teens. Dogs are in your future. Great ones - who are waiting to meet you - so go ahead. Say hello, move toward them. Welcome! WOOF!"

(Well if that isn't freakin' motivational, I don't know what is.)

It feels a little weird to rate people's personal letters but whatever. I couldn't give it any less than 5 stars anyway. If you think this book would be helpful to you or that you would gain something from it, I would urge you to pick it up because I honestly do think it's worth the read through. Even if you just picked it up every once and while and read a letter or two whenever you felt like, go for it.

+ Thanks to all the writers who contributed, you helped make a very beautiful collection.