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The Book with a Promise: It Gets Better,
This review is from: It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (Hardcover)
The secret weapon in this collection of essays is this: gorgeous moments of aching truth that pierce the sometimes distracting hype associated with the "It Gets Better" project and deliver an emotional wallop.
It's an earnest, uneven, truly inspirational collection, with enough of those heart-in-your-throat moments to keep you reading.
Interestingly, the most famous names in the book have the least impact. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, Suze Orman and even Ellen Degeneres are all here, but their pieces feel about as passionate as thumbing through their cue cards. Maybe fame leads to caution.
You'll have to settle for celebrity twice-removed to tap a wellspring of real emotion. Randy Roberts Potts is the grandson of the late, ultra-homophobic televangelist Oral Roberts, and Randy shares a family secret more salacious than his own homosexuality: his uncle, Ronald David Roberts, was also gay, and he was so despondent after coming out to his famous father that he killed himself with a gunshot to his heart.
Randy's own story is filled with religious and social trials, but there is victory. "I had to fight hard for it, but it finally happened," he writes, "the freedom to just be myself." And then he can't resist this: "My grandfather was famous for telling people, `Something good is going to happen to you!' And, it's strange to admit it, but he was right."
I still have the voice of lesbian Gabrielle Rivera ringing in my ears. Gabrielle appears on page 45 and not a moment too soon, bursting with truth and anger and passion. "It kind of doesn't get better," she proclaims. "...but what happens is this: You get stronger. You learn how to love yourself. You learn that other people are just crazy and caught up in their own crap."
The real excitement of this book is imagining where it will end up - a public library in South Dakota, the reading room of a youth center on an Air Force base -- and how, because we must, we get this book on the shelves on every junior high and high school in the country.
Last year, my (also gay) brother Dick and I sat down at our Mom's house and turned on the camera. Our It Gets Better video became a popular entry, and we were honored to be included in this book. It is neither the best nor the most moving essay in the book, but it does show an easy love between us, and that alone may be of value to a LGBT youth out there. I couldn't be more proud.
Like many people who grew up gay and afraid, my soul may have survived those years but I have a few scars left behind. It Gets Better gently strokes these wounds -- the toughened and the still-tender ones -- so that young people today might take heart and make the journey to adulthood a little more safely.
There's no denying the power of this project, and what could easily be the most important book of the year.
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