Not 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
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 Bass is a retired teacher
and principal of a continuation school in Northern California.