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You Matter (And Don't Let Anyone Tell You Different)

The letter below is part of an ongoing series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested. Today's guest is Kara Lee Corthron, whose new book Daughters Of Jubiliation comes out on Tuesday.


Dear 15-year-old Kara,

I know it’s tough and you feel frustrated. You were born in a small, rural town. The type of place people leave. You will be one of those people so you don’t need to worry about that (because I know you do). Most of the stuff you need to know you’ll eventually learn one way or another. Or maybe you won’t and that’s OK, too. As long as you’re breathing, there’s still time to learn. I just want to share a few observations and opinions based on many years of trial and error. I hope you think about them and remember them if/when you need them the most.

You’ve already been through a lot. I know you have trouble sleeping sometimes and you can get pretty down. Let me explain: 1) you’re suffering from depression and 2) depression isn’t the same thing as being in a crappy mood. It requires treatment and you’re not getting it right now and that’s hard. But you will and though you’ll probably struggle with this beast for the rest of your life, you’re going to figure out how to tame it and how to live with it. For now, do your best to take things less seriously. That, by the way, is a lifelong practice as I was just telling my adult self the same thing last night.

Kara as a teenager

Here’s something else you ought to know—you’re beautiful, with all your flaws and all your gifts. I understand that this is a mushy thing to say. Deal with it. I also mean “beautiful” in many ways, not just externally. But that, too. I know you don’t see it and neither do your peers, but they are incorrect. They’re blinded by white supremacy and because you’re not their idea of what a Black girl should be, they dismiss you. It sucks. I know. But I want you to remember that you have tremendous value regardless of what those in your immediate vicinity may think.

On the flip side, don’t believe the Black folks who say you “talk white” and don’t let it get under your skin. That is BS and it comes from a place of insecurity—they also don’t think you’re what a Black girl should be so they want you to second-guess yourself. Try not to be too hard on them. They’re still figuring out who they are, too.

Join a sport! Yes, you’re a majorette and you're in concert band (thankfully, you had the good sense to leave the oboe behind in middle school) and that’s fine, but you should challenge yourself more physically. You’ll thank me in a few decades.

Get your freakin’ learner’s permit as soon as you can and get that driver’s license while you’re young and have no phobias about car accidents! I am not kidding!

I write books with you in mind now. I’m doing my best to write the books you would have loved when looking for something to read beyond the honor’s English reading list. So, though we don’t speak often and this is the first letter I’ve written to you (and let’s be honest, it’s also probably the last), know that you matter. You matter you matter you matter. I carry you with me as I hope you’ll carry this letter with you.

Love always,

Adult Kara


About The Author: Kara Lee Corthron is a playwright, author, and TV writer based in Los Angeles. Her full-length plays include AliceGraceAnonHolly Down in Heaven, Listen for the Light, Welcome to Fear CityEtched in Skin on a Sunlit Night, What Are You Worth?, and Time and a Half. Kara is the author of the young-adult novels, The Truth of Right Now from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse and Daughters of Jubilation from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, coming out this week.


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