Thanks John: an open letter

Publish Date
Word Count
615 words
Content Warnings
  • Spoilers

Hi John,

I doubt that you'll ever read this, as people who enjoy the things you create are legion, though I guess given your track record as an involved creator, it's not impossible. This is not meant as an indictment, just an acknowledgement of the reality you live in. In any case, I hope you are doing well.

I write this open letter to you to express my gratitude for you and the book you wrote: The Anthropocene Reviewed, essays on a human-centred world. Though I have enjoyed your other books well enough, I feel TAR has truly touched me. The language you use has not only impressed me but given me space to feel a breath of emotions that I have lacked for a long time. Both the subject matter as well as the language you use to describe it all were a breath of fresh air for me in a time where consuming media of any kind feels suffocating.

An important bit of context about me is that I am both transgender and autistic. Both of these labels carry with them a history of intense emotional suppression. Like you, I have suffered depression and anxiety, and that has always made me feel a resonance with the things you write. I do not presume to know you but it sure does feel like I do sometimes.

I hope you'll forgive me for the meandering in this letter. Given that I'm writing it under the assumption you won't read it, I guess that's a moot point, but still. This is the most appropriate way I could think of to respond to a humorously self-referential book that makes fun of the pervasiveness of reviews in the contemporary social order, written by someone whose time is already so highly contested. The reason I'm writing to you is that you, John Green, made me cry, and I wanted to thank you for that.

It might feel weird having someone thank you for making them cry, but I am unable to cry in most situations, even if I might want to. I frequently blame the amount of testosterone in my body for this, though my history of emotional repression is more likely to blame. Either way, emotions have never felt like something to me I could handle or trust very well. They feel overwhelming to me, and the world has taught me that the way I respond to my emotions is incorrect and burdensome to others. Thus I have learnt to deny my feelings their existence, for fear that if I let them out I will be unable to contain them by the next moment I need to be "presentable".

While I enjoyed the whole book, the story about the burnt kid that came in during your chaplaincy moved me to tears. I suspect it might have been years since I actually cried, despite there being plenty of times I desperately wanted to. I was listening to your audiobook while I was cleaning my apartment. But when I reached that story, I stopped to sit and listen intently. My emotional reprieve wasn't long, testosterone is an impatient master, but for a brief moment, perhaps a minute or so, I sat in my living room and cried. For that brief moment, I felt not liberated but free, a semantic distinction which I think you'll understand.

I hope you'll forgive me for making a joke which I assume must already feel trite to you at this point, but I give The Anthropocene Reviewed \(z\) stars, where \(z\) is a non-trivial root of the Riemann \(\zeta\) function with real part strictly greater than \(\frac12\). Thank you.

Yours truly, Samantha