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Review of "Things I Have to Tell You"

By Betsy Franco (editor)
Candlewick Press, 2001
Review by Liz Bass on Apr 6th 2002
Things I Have to Tell YouNot surprisingly, most of the writing in this companion piece to You Hear Me? is about relationships -- finding them, losing them, placing conditions upon them (beautifully done in "Apricot Bath"), and celebrating them. The best of these is an essay called "A Letter to My Great-Grandmother." In it, author Sayyadina Danishia M. Thomas plays some catch-up in her life and writes a paean to the woman who raised her. The writer had a strong, solid relationship with her great-grandmother, and it is reconstructed with such love and admiration that the rest of us can easily appreciate what it was like to be cared for so well.

Women of all ages and in all cultures place great importance on relationships, and this is reflected in Things I Have To Tell You. But there is more to it than that. Some of the pieces reflect the female disgust with trying to achieve impossible standards of beauty, and others (like "Damn I Look Good") celebrate the achievement of those standards. There is a poem that express humor in the context of the what-in-the-world-shall-I-wear worry. In "Hallway Between Lunch and English," poet Danya Goodman says (in part):

    we march together toward
    The war we cannot name
    but at least we are dressed for it.

A reader emerges from the thirty-two pieces in Things I Have To Tell You a little more hopeful about youth than one feels after reading You Hear Me?. The girls and boys who contributed to these anthologies are roughly the same age and background and both books abound in adolescent angst. The writers express similar things -- a desire to be accepted for themselves, and a general view that societal restrictions are too stifling. Taken together, these books reinforce an age-old truth in human affairs. Simply put, men and women see things differently, and so do boys and girls.

Things I Have To Tell You is a kinder, gentler book than You Hear Me? and they are both worth a read. I would even go so far to say that the quality of all our lives greatly depends on what we make of what the boys have to say in You and the girls have to say in Things.

© 2002 Liz Bass

    Liz Bassis a retired teacher and principal of a continuation school in Northern California.

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