June 23, 2012

Review: The Letter Q

THE LETTER Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves Edited by Sarah Moon (no website found)
Contributing editor James Lecesne
Available now from Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
Review copy

When I picked up THE LETTER Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves, I was super excited to have another book to add to my QUILTBAG list.  I love sharing books that can change someone's life and THE LETTER Q looked very promising.  The list of authors on the front (beautifully designed by Chip Kidd) included big names like Armistead Maupin, Gregory Maguire, and Jacqueline Woodson.

What lay inside lived up to the promise of that off-pink, off-blue cover.  Each writer's letter is personal, but contains universal advice.  Not just about love and perseverance - but telling their younger self to quit smoking  and to not hang out in parks at night and to trust their instincts.  THE LETTER Q can get repetitive if you read it all at once, but it's just right when you space the letters out and see just how each of these authors made it out of their childhood.  And as for the advice, my favorite bit came from Jewelle Gomez:
Maybe you should think about writing vampire stories, they might come back into fashion someday (133, ARC).
I liked that THE LETTER Q showcased a wide range of voices, allowing for a fuller picture of LGBQ life.  Sadly, the trans* voice is lost in this collection.  But there are black, Hispanic, and Asian voices, struggling with two kinds of marginalization.  There are older voices, including people who weren't able to come out until middle age.  There are younger voices that grew up in a more tolerant time.  There are children's book authors, young adult authors, and literary fiction authors.  There are playwrights, comic artists, and memoir writers.

Panel of hilarious advice from Michael DiMotta's comic
The comics throughout THE LETTER Q cut the repetition of reading letter after letter.
This panel, by Michael DiMotta, was one of my favorites.
One of THE LETTER Q's greatest strengths is the way it serves as an introductory text.  I've talked to many people about Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME and how it led them to seek out the books she discusses in the text.  THE LETTER Q contains writing from dozens of authors (full list below).  Many who read THE LETTER Q will be inspired to pick up other works by those authors.  It's a bit of a who's who of queer lit.

I highly recommend reading this Advocate article about THE LETTER Q.  This anthology of letters will appeal to teens struggling with their identity as well as people of any age with an interest in the experiences of queer America.  It's a powerful, moving work.  Even better, half of the royalties will be donated to the Trevor Project, a resource for QUILTBAG youth contemplating suicide.

Amy BloomMichael Cunningham
Julie Anne PetersJacqueline Woodson
Eileen MylesDavid Levithan
Jasika NicoleRakesh Satyal
Doug WrightMelanie Braverman
Brian SelznickStacey D'Erasmo
Adam HaslettTerrence McNally
Erik OrrantiaJennifer Camper
Martin MoranArmistead Maupin
Arthur LevineMalinda Lo
Maurice VellekoopLarry Duplechan
Ali LiebegottPaul Rudnick
Linda VillarosaJ. D. McClatchy
Anne BogartEric Orner
Lucy Jane BledsoeTony Valenzuela
Gregory MaguireChristopher Rice
Jewelle GomezBill Clegg
Erika MoenSarah Moon
LaShonda Katrice Barnett Howard Cruse
Michael DiMottaDiane DiMassa
Brent HartingerSusan Stinson
Marc WolfLucy Knisley
Nick BurdJames Lecesne
Paula GilovichColman Domingo
Richard McCannMarion Dane Bauer
Lucy ThurberPaige Braddock
David LeavittDavid Ebershoff
Benoit Denizet-LewisRay Daniels
Michael NavaCarole DeSanti
A. Carter SickelsBill Wright
Janice MaimanMayra Lazara Dole
Randall KenanBruce Coville


  1. Awesome review! I really want to get this one. It sounds great, and I'm glad that there are so many perspectives, but bummer the trans voice got lost a bit. It includes so many wonderful authors though, and I'd certainly like to find new authors to check out as well.


    1. I'm sure you'd enjoy it. I know there's lots of works that I added to my to-read list after finishing.

  2. I was intrigued by this book because of its cover! It has such a wide range of writers and seems to be an interesting read.


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