A Lifeline that Understands

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, & Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, & Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein wants to keep you alive for one more minute. For one more hour. For one more day. In Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, & Other Outlaws, her goal is to help the reader realize that there are other means of dealing with pain. She offers instant, temporary distractions intended to help the reader deal with the pain until help can be found. Recommendations include many safe activities such as dancing and making longer range plans. Several, however, are radical, such as #78: Make It Bleed. She’s referring to cutting but acknowledges the danger and that it is not an acceptable long-term solution. She has it labeled as “If You Must.” While I understand her logic, such possibilities make me squirm.

Bornstein intends this. She’s rejected her transgendered status and lives her life beyond sexual labels. In the opening she critiques our need to label people through either/or questions. “They (either/or questions) are designed to make you not want to be the complex person that you are.”

I was slightly surprised to find this book in the teen section. The writing is certainly aimed at teens and twenty-somethings. I will add that, even at my advanced age, I both enjoyed and benefited from the challenges it presents. As a teacher, I can’t imagine recommending it to a student. As an ersatz uncle, I am going to leave my copy where my 15-year-old niece will find it. I want her to grow beyond the limits placed on her by many of those who surround her. I also think it is the sort of book that will be taken more seriously without the endorsement of an adult. It needs to be a stolen pleasure. It needs to be a quest taken up voluntarily, not only by teens but by us all.