I’d never had any interest in reading the memoirs of a political spouse till after I picked up this book. It’s an adaptation of Chasten Glezman Buttigieg’s 2021 autobiography, originally written for adults, but with a message that’s so, so necessary for younger readers, too.
I mean, even for a grown person like myself who is older than both Mr Buttigieg and his more famous husband, this was a much needed look at how much better life has gotten for queer people in the United States in the last fifteen to twenty years alone. The author candidly discusses how he went from being a closeted, unhappy teen in a Traverse City, Michigan high school that had no out queer students, to returning as an adult to speak to their LGBTQ+ Club. Mr Buttigieg’s honest recounting of his own experiences and feelings underscores just how awful things used to be only a very short time ago.
But the memoir isn’t just a stark, if necessary reminder of how things were (and, obviously, what any person with an ounce of empathy and human feeling should seek to avoid going back to.) It’s also a great example of how much we can change things for the better in only a decade or so. While the book doesn’t go into the kind of activism necessary for such change, it does set a mostly good example in being true to yourself and following your dreams, as young Chasten figures out who he is and what he truly wants to do with his life. It’s a tough road and he inevitably stumbles along the way, but he navigates it with heart and a hell of a lot more forgiveness than I’m personally capable of.
The only time that he actually fails himself is also a valuable object lesson for people still battling internal homophobia, or self-hatred of any kind. When he’s finally ready to come out to his parents, he automatically assumes that they’re going to kick him out of the house, so makes plans to leave immediately after telling them. Even tho his mom pleads with him to come home, he’s so frozen in flight mode that he feels compelled to stay away, despite being stuck in circumstances that are bad for both his emotional and physical well-being. I breathed a sigh of relief when he finally let his mom persuade him to move back in, when he accepted that his parents weren’t mad or looking to punish him for being honest about who he is.
Of course, not all kids are this lucky: some families are terrible and cruel. But there’s a lot to be said for not locking yourself into your own imaginary worst case scenario such that you punish yourself worse than others are willing to, just because you fear their scorn so much that it causes you to do the very thing — in this case, estrange yourself from your loved ones — that you don’t want them to do to you. The world is going to be hard enough on you without you beating yourself up, too. I Have Something To Tell You reminds every reader to be a good friend to yourself first and foremost.
Readable and compelling, this book also includes resources for mental health and LGBTQ+ support. The political stuff, tho relatively sparse, serves to underscore the more important lessons of self-esteem and self-acceptance. It does genuinely feel like Mr Buttigieg is using his platform not for any personal or political gain but to offer a message of hope for vulnerable kids. It’s really great to read.
I Have Something To Tell You ― For Young Adults: A Memoir by Chasten Glezman Buttigieg was published May 16 2023 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers and is available from all good booksellers, including