Exclusive Interview with Sarah Moon, Editor of The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves

The Letter Q is edited by Sarah Moon (image credit: Arthur A. Levine Books)

One of my favorite lines in Sarah Moon’s The Letter Q, which features letters written by queer writers to their younger selves, is one by Eileen Myles: “‘Cause right now you are in the dancing years of your life and if you like dancing at all—and I know you do—you should be doing it for yourself, feverishly and exhaustively.”

Moon’s collection, published this past spring by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic, aims to ensure that our queer students’ dancing years are just that, ones used for laughing, living, and loving instead of being bullied and harassed. Bringing together an impressive cadre of writers, from contemporary graphic to classic novelists, from writers of color to transgender authors, Moon sidesteps away from creating a literary pastiche of the It Gets Better Project and instead curates a collection that affirms the complexity and beauty of queer youth life and love.

As an educator who values bringing texts to the classroom that show our students the plurality of race, class, and gender, I was afraid these letters might be a bit white-washed, male, and cis-gender. However, the opposite is true. Gay white literary luminaries such as Michael CunninghamDavid LevithanTerrence McNally, and Paul Rudnick contributed, but Moon does not highlight any of her authors in particular; instead, each letter stands alone as an epistolary shot to the heart.

Authors such as LaShonda Katrice BarnettJewelle GomezJasika NicoleRakesh SatyalTony ValenzuelaLinda VillarosaJacqueline Woodson, and others share their stories of growing up queer and brown. Other writers acknowledge the fluidity of gender in childhood and the impact it made on their adult identities.Still others confess the emerging sexual desires of their teen years. These particular letters are sweet valentines to the precious adolescent fantasies that later scaffolded flourishing relationships.

A Spanish teacher at the progressive St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, Moon has seen the insides of prison classrooms at Riker’s as well as those in private schools in Connecticut. A survivor of bullying in middle and high school, Moon has published a book that we can add not just to our school libraries and curricula but also to our growing list of favorite texts that remind us of both the fragility and sadness, humor and creativity of our own younger, queer selves. Sometimes a book like Moon’s is exactly what we need to make sure we take care of our young people to make it better now.

The following interview via email gives us a glimpse of Moon as editor, teacher, and preserver of not a few dancing years. Continue reading

Book Review: “Hey Shorty!” Provides Educators Steps Against Sexual Harassment in Schools

(Girls for Gender Equity)

Reading Hey Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets is like drinking vitamin water for activists. An immersion in how-to community organizing, movement building, and feminist activism against sexual harassment, this book is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Written in easy-to-read language and clearly outlined, bullet point action steps, co-authors Meghan Huppuch, Joanne N. Smith, and Mandy Van Deven make the case for feminist activism in schools in ways that will make our non-initiated colleagues understand that we need to act now.

As hard as it is for some educators and administrators to admit, all schools are sexual and sexualized spaces. More specifically, when it comes to sexual harassment, all schools are spaces of power and submission, authority and silence.

Pervasive and destructive, sexual harassment is considered to be a “typical part” of school life by two-thirds of the 1,189 New York City public school students surveyed by Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), a Brooklyn-based girls advocacy and movement building group dedicated to gender justice.

In this new and important book, GGE co-authors Huppuch, Smith, and Van Deven, reveal urgent research that the young women in their Sisters in Strength program discovered.

Their three pivotal findings should press those of us who are educators and school leaders to respond: 1) in-school sexual harassment occurs in many ways, to many people, and in many locations; 2) sexual harassment is a “normal” part of young people’s school experience, and 3) students want and need more education about sexual harassment.  Continue reading