Title: It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living
Editors: Dan Savage and Terry Miller
Buy link: Amazon.com
Length: 352 pages (also ebook)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: A collection of essays derived from the It Gets Better Video Project, founded by Dan Savage and Terry Miller in September 2010.
Every story can change a life.
Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, making them feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted – even tortured – simply for being themselves.
After a number of tragic suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for LGBT youth facing harassment. Speaking openly about the bullying they suffered as teenagers, and how they both went on to lead rewarding adult lives, their video launched the It Gets Better Project YouTube channel and initiated a worldwide phenomenon. With over 6,000 videos posted and over 20 million views in the first three months alone, the world has embraced the opportunity to provide personal, honest and heartfelt support for LGBT youth everywhere.
It Gets Better is a collection of expanded essays and new material from celebrities, everyday people and teens who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as new contributors who have yet to post videos to the site. While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. We can show LGBT youth the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach if they can just get through their teen years. By sharing these stories, It Gets Better reminds teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone – and it WILL get better.
What is there to say? Of course this book is great. The entire It Gets Better Project is great and it is making a difference in the lives of LGBT youth. It started with videos, expanded to public service announcements on TV and on March 22, 2011, the six-month of anniversary of Dan and Terry’s video going live on YouTube, the book came out, extending the project to a print platform.
It seems a little backwards, doesn’t it? Doesn’t the movie usually get made from the book? Well yes, but Dan and Terry had a great idea to use social networking as a way to speak directly to LGBT youth. The phenomenal success of the project (at present, there are more than 10,000 videos at the It Gets Better website) demonstrates that there is a need, interest, and support for outreach to young people who may be struggling with their feelings and fears.
And now there is the book. One goal of the project is to have a copy of the book in every single library in the US. Because, guess what—there are probably kids out there who don’t have access to the Internet, or whose parents won’t let them watch YouTube, or who are so fearful and afraid of what might happen to them if someone found out they were surfing the ‘net for info on being gay that they don’t. So this vast resource that has been created in six short months is not available to them. But hopefully they have access to a library, whether in their school or town, and they can go there and find this book and realize: it gets better.
If you’ve watched any of the videos, you know what the essays in the book are like. Many are transcribed from the videos but there is also new content, or in Terry Miller’s words, “Videos that haven’t been made yet.” There are lots of famous names but also plenty of stories from ordinary people like you and me. The variety of emotions, topics, and thoughts that are presented are important—it is clear that Savage and Miller wanted to make sure that every base was covered so that no child who reads this would feel left out—no matter who you are, where you live, or what your circumstance there is someone else out there in the world who has gone through what you are going through and came out on the other side—and is able to say: it gets better.
This is not the sort of book to read straight through—it’s not a novel, after all. It’s better to flip though and read essays at random, bookmark those that resonate, and make notes (if you are a note-making-in-the-book type of person). Fortunately, the publisher realized these features apply to e-readers as well as those who enjoy print. The table of contents is linked so that on my Kindle, it was very easy to skip from chapter to chapter. I assume this feature is enabled on other e-readers, too.
I will be honest and say that I haven’t read every story—hey, I only got the book on Tuesday! Actually, reading too many at one time was giving me a bit of emotional overload. But, as I said at the beginning, the 5 star rating isn’t really for the book per se, it’s for the whole project and what is being undertaken. The book is just the latest initiative and a very important part of that effort.
I think this is an important book to own and equally important to pass on. Consider, please, if you can afford it, buying a copy to give to a friend, a young person, or a library. I just gifted a copy of the paperback to my daughter’s high school. Won’t you join me and do the same?
Update: After I posted this review, my husband told me he heard Dan and Terry interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. You can download the interview and find a great deal of good information, about the book and the It Gets Better project, at the NPR website.