"I Have Something to Tell You" by Chasten Buttigieg (nee Glezman) -- husband of former South Bend (Indiana) mayor/U.S. Democratic presidential candidate/current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg -- has been on my want-to-read list for quite a while now. I was waiting for the paperback, but it's not readily available here in stores in Canada (although I could have ordered it online). I eventually used my points to download a copy to my Kobo e-reader. (I have Pete's own memoir in the TBR pile as well, but this one was way higher up on my list, lol.)
I was impressed by Pete Buttigieg as a political candidate -- but (can I admit?) I developed something of a crush on Chasten ;) and I began following him on social media during the nomination race last year. I love watching his Instagram Live interviews (although he hasn't done any in a while). Okay, I know he's gay, and (at 32) almost half my age -- and I am, in fact, OLDER than his mother (!! -- who has two other older sons to boot...!) -- but he just seemed so refreshingly down-to-earth and genuine. When I heard he was a drama teacher and theatre geek, it all made sense: he reminded me of the sweet, slightly dorky guys I hung out with in high school band and drama club (some of them gay, although we didn't talk openly about stuff like that as teenagers in the 1970s).
Despite the different times and places we grew up in, I recognized a lot of my own youth in Chasten's stories about his small-town American Midwest upbringing -- both the good (4-H, hockey -- his brothers played -- mom's home cooking and thriftiness, the proximity to the U.S.-Canada border) and the not-so-good (the desperate desire to fit in, the conservatism, the lack of diversity and curiosity, the homophobia). He spent his senior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany, where he first kissed a boy and came out to his host mother, then returned home to Michigan, where he bounced around between several colleges and jobs, initially intending to become a nurse. He eventually landed at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire to study theatre, and in the process, racked up six figures worth of student loans. Even after he began working as a drama teacher, first in Milwaukee and then in Chicago, he also worked as a barista at Starbucks, both to supplement his income and because they offered the health insurance coverage that is so necessary living in the U.S. (Chasten's stories about his mother's battle with cancer, as well as his own medical debt, make me sooooo glad -- not for the first time -- that I'm Canadian...!)
Sadly, his first sexual experience was being assaulted by an older man at a party. He confesses that the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford hearing a few years ago brought back some painful memories. Eventually, he took a chance on a guy he found while scrolling through a dating app -- a guy who happened to be the mayor of a small city in northern Indiana. The rest, as they say, is history. The later part of the book details Chasten's bewildering new life as a political spouse and his experiences on the campaign trail.
This was a chatty, funny, frank, keenly observed and often poignant coming-of-age and coming out story, combined with an inside look at the U.S. political campaign process. I loved it. (If you know a young person who recently came out, this would be a great book to hand them -- and there's a version adapted for younger readers on its way soon!)
I think Chasten would make an excellent First Gentleman someday -- if not a politician in his own right. He was a great campaigner, a savvy user of social media, an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, education and the arts on the campaign trail, and I look forward to seeing what he does next, beyond supporting Pete in his ambitions. Since I started reading this book, he & Pete announced they have just become parents! -- so I guess that's what will be keeping him busy for the next while...!
On that note -- I found a Washington Post article from July about how Chasten is settling into life in Washington (or trying to...!). Some of this may sound familiar to some of you who have adopted, or tried to...
They’ve been trying to adopt for a year now, going through home studies and parenting workshops, writing up descriptions of their family values and ideal weekends. They are on lists that would allow them to receive a baby who has been abandoned or surrendered at very little notice, and through lengthier processes that would allow a prospective mother to choose them in advance (although she wouldn’t know their identities). They’ve gotten close enough, on multiple occasions, to shop for baby gear and discuss names.
One afternoon, two weeks ago, Chasten got a call about a birth mother who was in labor and wanted to place her baby for adoption. The couple scrambled to figure out how to clear their schedules, track down an infant car seat and travel to the state where she was delivering the baby. A few hours later, he got another call. The mother had changed her mind.
“It’s a really weird cycle of anger and frustration and hope,” says Chasten. “You think it’s finally happening and you get so excited, and then it’s gone.” He thinks, sometimes, about what they will tell their future child: “We tried so hard for you. We waited so long for you.” He fantasizes about taking a little one to Michigan, where they could romp through the woods and cast fishing lines with Grandpa.
I debated whether this should be 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads... I settled on 5 stars, because I really did enjoy it. It's a compelling story and very well told.
This was Book #44 read to date in 2021 (and Book #6 finished in August), bringing me to 122%! of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 21 (!) books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."