~by Kate Bornstein
2006 Lambda Literary Award
Kate Bornstein's most recent book, despite its heavy subject, is a quirky and even fun little volume. While initially written for and aimed towards teenagers, the title and book was expanded to incorporate "freaks and other outlaws" as well, since the information offered is really invaluable regardless of age.
Part 1 serves as an introduction of sorts--to Kate, to the subject, and to the book--almost as if initiating a conversation with the reader. In Hello, Cruel Me we learn Kate's personal story and history and how it can apply to other people's struggles. Which is why this book was written, making it a deeply personal work. Hello, Cruel Bullies addresses issues of power and a society that demands people be either/or, regardless that nothing is ever really that black and white. Hello, Cruel Desire touches on how desire can be a positive source of motivation, but also on how it can be rather problematic.
Then comes Part 2, the real substance of the book. First is the Hello Cruel Quick Start Guide. Here Kate offers seven fairly well-accepted and sanctioned strategies that are recommended above the less unorthodox alternatives. But, it is noted that these strategies don't always work, or stop working after a time. That's when it's time to switch to something different, something that works even if its temporary. There is only one rule according to Kate, "Don't be mean. Anything else goes, anything at all."
With that, the 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws commences. And they are just that--alternatives. Some are more positive, life and self-affirming options while others are more dangerous or even illegal. But, if it makes life worth living, even when considering the possible consequences, keep doing it.
Kate's beliefs and points of view are not particularly mainstream and some people might find them irredeemable and even offensive. Individual freedom and the expression of personal identity, regardless of society's (and other's) blessing or approval is very important and emphasized. Personally, I find Kate's approach and perspectives refreshing and compelling. Sex, sexuality, and gender play a major role in Hello, Cruel World, partially because this is what Kate knows and typically writes about, but also because these issues tend to be very important to self identity.
This is the first book I've read by Kate Bornstein. After reading it, and getting a chance to meet Kate in person, I definitely plan on reading more. Hello, Cruel World was funky and vibrant, just like remarkable Kate. While I was a little hesitant to read it at the beginning (mostly because of my own experience with depression and other people "trying to help"), even before the end I knew that what I was holding was a marvelous and potentially life-saving book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.