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

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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  962 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Celebrated transsexual trailblazer Kate Bornstein has, with more humor and spunk than any other, ushered us into a world of limitless possibility through a daring re-envisionment of the gender system as we know it.
Here, Bornstein bravely and wittily shares personal and unorthodox methods of survival in an often cruel world. A one-of-a-kind guide to staying alive outside th...more
Paperback, 231 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Seven Stories Press
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9th out of 122 books — 161 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,659)
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Nathan Trevor
First of all, I wish I had bought the paper copy instead of the ebook edition. If you're considering purchasing the book, get the paper. I am going to buy the flesh and blood copy even though I already bought the ebook.
This book is worth it.
Second of all, If you know of somebody who has expressed a wish to die, please, please, please give them this book.

Now for my review:
For a good part of my life I've been an outlaw, cast as a freak by people, and this has made me suicidal. And I firmly believe...more
Stacy
I think this book was badly named. Had the subtitle been 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Freaks, Weirdos and Other Outlaws (say)--it would still have ended up in the hands of the teens who really needed it and yet would not have suggested the book was *only* for teens. Some adults will miss this book, and that's too bad. Like some other reviewers I was impressed with Kate's humor and articulation, but put off by the fact that so much of it was focused on sexuality. I think sex DOES need to be in...more
Alexei
Ok, I'll admit it- I have a big, fat crush on Kate Bornstein. Big brains are a huge turn on.

But as far as the *book* goes, I'd have to give it 5 stars. As someone who works with queer and questioning youth, I have found this book to be invaluable- both for myself and for the youth I work with.

I've seen some reviews call in to question the focus on sexuality in a book meant for younger readers. Newsflash: youth are expressing their sexuality and gender at younger and younger ages and looking for...more
Caitlin
Ok.
So I get all the hoopla about Kate Bornstein and I can respect her work and her life, but I don't agree with a lot of it. The first part of the book was just scattered and ill-prepared. Her generalizations like "all lesbian and gay people are transgendered because the transcend gender" just leave me feeling a little squicky. And I'm sure quite a few lesbians and gay men would agree with me on that.
That being said, her actual list of 101 things to do is pretty good. Most of them are just good...more
Nicola
I would hazard a guess that this is the most badass self-help book on the market. Kate Bornstein’s advice on how to climb out of your suicidal hole ranges from that which is simple (moisturize! touch yourself… not like that – unless you want to!) to that which is off-kilter (remove the word ‘hello’ from your vocabulary and tell people what you really feel when you see them… ummm, yeah, I didn’t really get that one). Bornstein is refreshingly blunt – drugs, cutting, starving yourself are all bett...more
Ali
I picked this up earlier this year as a bit of an introduction to Kate Bornstein's written work. I avoid self-help books like the plague, but the title of this book has intrigued me for a couple of years now. The "Don't kill yourself! Kill what you don't like about yourself" message is concrete and positive, and I think it could be helpful for a lot of people.

Recalling my own teen years, I think this book is a vital resource for teens or young adults, and not limited to queer youth. But I think...more
Katie
Eh. It was alright. WAY too much stuff about sex for my asexual self to really like it. Made me feel worse after reading it because of that. More alone, because it seemed to say if you don't want sex in some way you're not normal. I know that's not the way most people would read it and it made some good points that weren't about sex.
Michelle Brandstetter
Whether struggling with sexuality, bullying, or abuse, just a few things that can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide, the book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, & Other Outlaws is a brutally honest look at a multitude of possibilities other than ending one’s life. Kate Bornstein exposes her own personal struggle as a child and teen, her journey to find herself, and how she would eventually accept herself and own her identity.

Whether struggling with sex...more
Ciara
Nov 13, 2008 Ciara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: troubled teens, troubled teens-at-heart, therapists to teens
i guess i read this book strictly from curiosity. i am not a teenager & i haven't been wild about kate bornstein, particularly. but perhaps if i had a distraught teenager in my life--or a surly one, or one that wouldn't talk to anyone--i would pass this book along. it has many coping mechanisms ideas for young folks (& folks of all ages who may be having some trouble getting through their days) who feel alienated from their families, schools, & general communities, maybe because they...more
Jackson Radish
#itgetsbetter

So I wrote a pretty in-depth review of this book for PrettyQueer.com if you're interested as well, but here's the gist:

This book is amazing and I urge anyone who is a teen or other person who feels different and is struggling with depression, hopelessness or suicidal thoughts to read it.

I especially encourage parents (and teachers and librarians, who are usually motivated to censor by parents so this goes back to you, parents) to be open-minded enough to be okay with your teens rea...more
Roxane
This was my first experience reading Kate Bornstein though I’d heard about her (at length) from a friend who enjoys her work. I had also listened to her interview on the Radical Guy Podcast (a great podcast on transgender issues, very informative, you should check it out by the way). So I was familiar with her overall message and her direct and accessible manner of presenting it.

Hello Cruel World is directed at teens and so I take it, Bornstein did not approach all the issues she usually address...more
Bekka
I love that this book does not merely just make a case of why life is pretty awesome and worth living, but truly acknowledges that dangerous self harm/suicidal ideation is not just something that can be magically removed from someone without being replaced with some alternative behavior/thoughts. Sometimes these alternatives are not "ideal" or "healthy," but anything that will keep someone tethered to the Earth in their darkest moments is something of value. Thank you Kate your honesty and honor...more
Littlevision
May 13, 2011 Littlevision rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Littlevision by: adults, teens, outlaws of any kind
It takes a lot for me to give a book five stars, but this book is one I can't give any less to. Why?

I think it has the potential to change lives. Kate Bornstein is plain cool and her 101 alternatives to killing yourself are totally awesome. I feel inspired by her book, something that I haven't felt in a long time. And her book has given me just what I need to keep on living -- at least for now. And if I reach that point again, I'll read this book again. And I'll keep reading it and recommending...more
Marie
Kate Bornstein puts a lot of emphasis on the idea that coping mechanisms can be shitty and yet still work, which is something that resonates with me tremendously; she acknowledges that a certain class of things (drugs, alcohol, self-injury) can be tremendously unhealthy and yet still be better than suicide. There are a lot of other suggestions she makes, from the woo-woo to the down to earth, all of them presented with an attitude of "this might work, it might not, give it a shot", and her guidi...more
Penny
Kate Bornstein is the first person I have ever seen talk about how stressful and depressing it is to live with oppression and social stigma, and to talk about means of dealing with severe depression that are not necessarily legal or good for you but are certainly something to check out before suicide. She doesn't waste words with pointless happytalk or pretend that everyone is similarly situated or even safe. I love her discussions of the necessity of transforming yourself and her honesty about...more
Lisa M.
I have wanted to read this book for years. Like most of Bornstein's work, sometimes you have to ignore some overly eccentric ideas and identify the core message of the work. Although some of Bornstein's ideas are too out there (even for me,) I really enjoyed this book overall. Bornstein has had actual experience with suicidal ideation; readers can relate and trust her advice. Her experience gives her an extremely realistic view-point on the topic. Doing anything-- even negative things like cutti...more
Randy
Kate Bornstein, with this unusual book, has a good idea. She wants to make sure we all stay alive and live happily. Thus she provides a long list of alternatives to suicide.

I picked this book up because a student tagged it as including unsuitable material, which it certainly does. She advocates all sorts of activities, with the caveat that they should not be mean to anyone. This leaves a lot of room for people to be doing things.

I finished this book because I was interested in her approach to l...more
Jennie
This book is super weird and Kate Bornstein is a total nutter. With that said there's a lot of great qualities about this book. Cutter, Transgender, Scientologist, Dyke, Addict, Masochist, Magician and Anorexic are just a few of the many labels Kate pins on herself from time to time from her revolving collection of identities. She's had loads of experience trying to figure out how to be her authentic self in this world and I thought she had some good points and some thought provoking ideas to sh...more
Tashan
The first part of the book (in which the author explains what made her suicidal and what we should change into society) was a bit irrelevant to me because it was focused on (trans)gender's issues. I am not concerned by that, not because i'm cis straight but because sexuality and genders are not something that matters to me. While some people struggle to put a 5 nouns label on themselves, i just don't feel the need to define or categorize myself.

Regarding the writing style, it was not perfect but...more
Cory
Let me begin by saying that "like" isn't really a word I would use to describe this book. It wasn't a fun read. I wasn't sucked in. However, I do think it's a very important book, and very brave. I don't think a teen would check it out, but it is the sort of thing that they would read secretly in the library and it might save their life. Literally. The balancing act would be having it available and letting teens know it was available, without making it a big thing . . . "Here's a book about bein...more
Metaspinster
Jul 30, 2011 Metaspinster rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone (I'd like to know)
Recommended to Metaspinster by: Martha
Like Kate Bornstein, this book defies categorization. The first half is part Gender Studies 101 peppered with autobiographical tidbits but uses this "queer theory for the layperson" paradigm to get at the pain and emotional oppression of Otherness(es) of all types. The one "rule" of Bornstein's guidebook may be "don't be mean," but the overall purpose of the book is to provide (suggest) alternatives to death and/or conformity.

I haven't been suicidal since I was 16 years old, but I still find mu...more
Jason
It's just an overall good book for outsiders and outlaws of all sorts, a bit of comfort from someone who's been there, and encouragement to just be yourself and do whatever it takes to make life worth living. I love that it doesn't talk down to young people or make distinctions about age appropriateness. The irreverence of this book and how it *actually* talks about things like sex might horrify some parents. If I had a child who was struggling I'd give this to them in a heartbeat. She's really...more
Emily
"Look, do you mind that I'm talking so much about gender?" Not at all, Kate...not at all. I've been meaning to read this book for a couple of years, and finally got around to it. While I'm not a teen, or suicidal, I don't think that you have to be in order to benefit from this book. (It would help to be some kind of outsider, though.) I don't agree with, or know how to make sense of, everything that Kate is saying here. A few parts were kind of alienating. But, I think this book is better and mo...more
Emilia P
I think this book took itself more seriously than I had expected it to too. Which was ok.

Ummm...I think it really gets to the idea that being miserable is about not feeling in control of your identity/identities. And that the best way to do that is to think about your identity, develop it, name it, be glad to be yourself however ridiculous that may be, and there WILL be people that love you for that. And Don't Be Mean about it.

Some of her best things were about acknowledging your own mythology...more
Caitlinleah
i want to be a big kate bornstein fan, but i can't. the first part of this book i really disliked for the same reasons i dislike my gender workbook: for all she talks about the wild diversity of gender options, it seems to be written only for those with a similar path to hers. i was really frustrated by it being a book only for those freaks who are gender outlaws, rather than for freaks in general. it could have been for such a wider range of people because the ideas are so universal. but the li...more
Cara
Nov 05, 2010 Cara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cara by: My Mom
As a more-than-reasonably 'troubled' teenager, I've gone through my fair share of struggles. During a period of my life where I was heavily considering offing myself, my mom of all people went out and bought me this book on her own accord and asked me to read it.

Can I just say that I love my mom?

This book made me feel like I wasn't alone. Though it focused mainly on sexuality and gender laws, I still found myself relating to it very much. Bornstein's view on suicide is unique and I greatly appre...more
Ashley
May 22, 2010 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Suicidal People
Shelves: non-fiction
I love this book because it is controversial and it is great for people who really are suicidal. When your suicidal you don't want to hear about all the shit you should do like sit down and write a journal or call a friend. This book finally UNDERSTANDS that and gives you some REAL adrenaline producing alternatives, even though they might be dangerous (not eating, running away from home, cutting). I think doing these things are better than DYING at least. I'm glad the author had the courage to p...more
Jora
It's been awhile since I was a suicidal teen, but looking over the suggestions in here, I have to say they really would have helped me realize the world was larger than the small, cruel high school one I was trapped in, and to hold out, day by day, until it was over and I could find others like me. Some of the things mentioned might have made me feel sadder, like "find a friend," because there were none, but I should have cut class more often than just in senior year, and if they were all going...more
Ilan
Oct 28, 2013 Ilan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ilan by: gecko.segno@gmail.com
Not just for teens, freaks, and other outlaws - I think this book could be life-saving for anyone thinking about suicide. Even if you don't need it now, read it anyways: you or someone you know might need it later. Unlike a lot of other suicide prevention, this book really takes a harm reduction approach in that its list of alternatives considers anything that isn't suicide and isn't "being mean" to be better than suicide. Its setup as a numbered list of alternatives makes it especially useful,...more
Beth
Oct 19, 2008 Beth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE in high school...no, seriously...EVERYONE
This isn't a book I read in high school, but I damn sure wish it were. I don't go much for inspirational books or books labeled "self-help," but this book packs an enormous emotional wallop that basically makes the reader want to get off her ass, quit (or start) complaining, and try to do something to change the shitty and unfortunate Way Things Are. I read it after I already begun teaching high school and, looking at it through those lens, it even drew a few (sincere!) tears from the typically...more
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5854
Kate Bornstein is a Jewish-American author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist.
More about Kate Bornstein...
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity

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“I have this idea that every time we discover that the names we're being called are somehow keeping us less than free, we need to come up with new names for ourselves, and that the names we give ourselves must no longer reflect a fear of being labeled outsiders, must no longer bind us to a system that would rather see us dead.” 20 likes
“We have looked for myths that include us in great novels, music, the latest comic book, or even some stupid advertising campaign. We'll look *anywhere* for a mythology that embraces people like ourselves.” 4 likes
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