Kate Bornstein’s ‘Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws’
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
“Go ahead, give yourself permission to become the kind of person you’ve always dreamed you could be.”
Kate Bornstein is the fantastically blunt best friend you’ve never had. She comes off as someone who knows exactly what you’re going through and has seen it all herself. This provides immediate comfort and familiarity to the reader. Her book Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws is the read of a lifetime. Bornstein’s revolutionary take on gender, society, sex, suicide, and staying alive can be just the push needed for someone to get out of bed and try to live another day as authentically as they can.
Bornstein’s personality blazes through the pages; upon finishing the book’s opening credits it feels as though you’ve been acquainted for many lifetimes. Part one focuses on introducing Bornstein and all of the tiny details which arise from choosing created labels and building an identity from them. Bornstein recounts her journey to creating an identity with which she could happily live with. Part two focuses on the external world and its bullies. Bornstein describes what these bullies do, how to spot them, the difficulties we may face because of them, and examples for what to do when we feel stuck in institutions of oppression.
With anecdotes and probing questions posed directly to the reader, Bornstein encourages the reader to learn and work on themselves while learning these new concepts. Answering the questions and doing the work on yourself is great for not only a deeper understanding of the text, but especially for simply growing as a person. Bornstein poses some of the following questions: “What would life be like if you felt more sexy than you feel right now?” “Have you ever pretended to be another kind of person so that someone would like you better, or maybe so they wouldn’t hurt you?” “Are you straight? Only and forever? Are you queer? Only and forever?” By the end of the book, it is certain you will have learned something new about yourself (or found out at least one part you’d like to change).
Bornstein teaches that throughout our lives we must continuously update our identity in order to align with the self that is best suited for our happiness in that moment, making sure to evolve alongside the ever-changing world around us. “Go ahead, give yourself permission to become the kind of person you’ve always dreamed you could be,” Bornstein says.
The second half of the book contains 101 alternatives to suicide. These are ranked by how easy they are to do (as easy as petting a cow, as tricky as riding a cow, as difficult as a cow on wheels, real easy, and real dangerous); how safe they are (a four-heart and four-skull scale); and how effective they are (more umbrellas mean more effective). There’s also a rating system including G (general), YG (youth guidance—don’t try unless accompanied by a youth), YG-50 (youth guidance mandatory for anyone over 50), X (“No one older than Gen-X should attempt or even read, this option,”) and ASS (adult supervision suggested). This extensive list includes everything from touching yourself, to making a deal with the devil, all the way to flirting with death if you must (though it is not recommended).
Hello, Cruel World can be purchased on Amazon. It’s a book everyone should read—especially if they happen to be a teen, freak, or other outlaw—however, the first-hand knowledge displayed by Kate Bornstein provides an amazing resource to not only help yourself, but to help those struggling around you. If nothing else, read it a few dozen times then pass it on. It could save a life.