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

by Kate Bornstein

reviewed by alwaysarousedgirl on Tue 19 Jun 2007

hello cruel
If someone had given me this book when I was younger, I would doubtlessly have spent far less time listening to Pink Floyd and dreaming up ways to do myself in.

Kate Bornstein is an author, playwright and performance artist; she’s also a person who has experienced life as a man, a woman, both, and neither. This makes her the perfect authority for a book on how to deal with life when you feel like you don’t fit in.

Hello Cruel World speaks directly to those in the difficult teenage years, but her message applies to everyone. She asks us to picture:

…the world as a place where anyone can safely and even joyfully express themselves the way they’ve always wanted to. Nothing about the bodies they were born with or what they choose to do with those bodies…would get people laughed at, or targeted, or in any way deprived of their rights. Can you imagine a world like that?

Unfortunately, of course, our world bears little resemblance to what Borstein describes. Hello Cruel World therefore provides reasons and incentives to stay alive…the biggest one, perhaps, being that things get better after the teen years.

And thank God for that.

In the first section of the book, Bornstein discusses various theories of why some people seem to fit in and others don’t. This section could come off as exceptionally dry, but Bornstein’s wit makes it a fun and accessible read for all.

She effectively knocks down the idea of a two-choice system: Are you gay or straight? Are you a man or a woman? Are you black or white? Are you young or old? She’d like people to realize that instead of being one thing or its opposite, a person could be both. Or neither. Or some combination that shifts with the passage of time.

The second section offers up the titular 101 things to do instead of killing yourself. Bornstein begins with standard advice (seek counseling, call a suicide hotline, go to a addictions recovery meeting), but then moves on to many more suggestions that will make you smile, make you raise your eyebrows, or make you shake your head in disbelief–sometimes all at once for the very same suggestion.

She gives ample warnings for her suggestions that are unorthodox (eroticizing pain, telling lies) or downright dangerous (cutting, taking drugs). These are of course extreme examples; Bornstein brings them up as last-ditch alternatives to immediate suicide. Her ideas are at times lighthearted (bake a cake), parent-like (do your homework), imaginative (be a movie extra) or comforting (moisturize your skin).

In all of her suggestions on how to deal with the injustices of living in a world that does not embrace differences, Bornstein emphasizes one rule for her teens, freaks and outlaws to follow: Don’t be mean to yourself or others. Excellent advice, and advice that, if followed, would make books like this one far less necessary than they are.

If you’ve got an outlaw teen amongst your circle of friends, Hello Cruel World would make a loving gift to be tucked into a backpack or tossed onto a messy bed. I’m planning on passing my review copy to an outlaw teen of my own.

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein
Pages: 336
Copyright: 2006
Available at Babeland