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Chasten Buttigieg: Building a bridge 'board by board' toward acceptance

Chasten Buttigieg has released a young-adult adaptation of his memoir, "I Have Something to Tell You." (Book cover courtesy of Simon and Schuster; Author portrait by Carina Teoh)
Chasten Buttigieg has released a young-adult adaptation of his memoir, "I Have Something to Tell You." (Book cover courtesy of Simon & Schuster; Author portrait by Carina Teoh)

Chasten Buttigieg appears at the National Writers Series in Traverse City on Friday night, talking about the young adult adaptation of his memoir, "I Have Something to Tell You."

The teacher and author grew up near Grawn in the 1990s and early 2000s. And he leans on that teaching expertise in this adaptation of his story.

“I started writing it knowing that this would be something I wish I could have read in middle school,” Buttigieg told IPR. “Something that would validate my experience. Something that would soothe some of those burns.”

He describes a childhood in northern Michigan among a close-knit family that did a lot together, but also feelings of isolation as he struggled with his own identity and what revealing it might mean.

From teaching, to meeting and marrying his husband, Pete Buttigieg, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to raising kids in northern Michigan.

The book aims to start a conversation, even including questions for reflection at the end. Buttigieg says the book is written toward a young adult audience, but that he hopes parents and teachers read it, too, especially in a time when there are such tense conversations happening about LGBTQ issues.

“We can start having some of those really important conversations if everyone comes to the table in good faith,” he said. “Some of the greatest allies in my life have found their progress not by people beating them over the head on social media, but by somebody building a bridge, board by board, through love, through empathy, through understanding, and a commitment to wanting that person to get to the right side of history.”

He appears Friday, May 12 at the National Writers Series in Traverse City, in conversation with actor Kal Penn.

The teacher and author grew up near Grawn in the 1990s and early 2000s, and has just released a young-adult adaptation of his memoir, called “I Have Something to Tell You.”

“I started writing it knowing that this would be something I wish I could have read in middle school,” Buttigieg told IPR. “Something that would validate my experience. Something that would soothe some of those burns.”

He describes a childhood in northern Michigan among a close-knit family that did a lot together, but also feelings of isolation as he struggled with his own identity and what revealing it might mean.

After he came out to his family, at age 18, he ran away from home. It was his parents who brought him back.

Buttigieg says the book leans into his expertise as a former teacher.

“I know my audience, I know what’s age appropriate, as parent and as a teacher,” he said.

The book aims to start a conversation, even including questions for reflection at the end. Buttigieg says the book is written toward a young adult audience, but that he hopes parents and teachers read it, too.

“We can start having some of those really important conversations if everyone comes to the table in good faith,” he said. “Some of the greatest allies in my life have found their progress not by people beating them over the head on social media, but by somebody building a bridge, board by board, through love, through empathy, through understanding, and a commitment to wanting that person to get to the right side of history.”

He appears Friday, May 12 at the National Writers Series in Traverse City, in conversation with actor Kal Penn.

Ed Ronco is IPR's news director.