Jonathan Alexander / Carla Wilson

“What surprised me most,” says author Jonathan Alexander on completing “Dear Queer Self: An Experiment in Memoir” (March 14, 2022, Acre Books), “was my conclusion that it is not so much a matter of I wish I knew then what I know now, but I wish I knew now what I knew then! And can I have some of that back, please?”

While no one can turn back time, we can all revisit our past and glean a little wisdom, insight and even love from our younger selves.

In writing “Dear Queer Self,” which is written in the second person and revisits the years 1989, 1993, and 1996, Alexander says, “I imagined striking up a conversation with my younger self who I discovered to be someone who needed far more care and concern than he got.

Can I provide it to him now? Obviously not, but I can shift how I feel about myself now by creating this ‘fictionalized’ situation in which I’m talking to my past self, encouraging him, loving him. In doing so, I tell my current self that I deserved the love I wasn’t always getting as a kid, as a young man.  And that maybe it’s not too late after all to experience that love.  No, I can’t go back in time and care for my younger self. But just talking to him reminds me how much he did deserve love. And that reminds me that I need–and deserve–it now too.”

It is “conversations” such as these with our past selves that open the door to a fuller understanding of who we are now, even if at first, we are unable to immediately grasp the significance of these exchanges. For Alexander, it was only after writing The Creep Trilogy of memoirs (“Dear Queer Self,” is the third), plus an additional memoir, “and sitting with them for a while,” that he was able to hear what his younger self was telling him.

Jonathan Alexander in NYC in 1995

So how can the rest of us conjure up our younger selves for a little heart-to-heart? In Alexander’s case, “I looked at old journals, old poems, some old writing I did about my father in my 20s,” he says. “Old pictures are so important. Even buying a bottle of cologne I wore in my 20s was eye, er, nose-opening.  Memory is so triggered by smell. I spritzed some of that scent on me and was momentarily stunned by a flood of feeling from my 20s, from myself in my 20s.”

A fun bonus: “Dear Queer Self” is divided into three sections, each with an accompanying YouTube Playlist for the year discussed (19891993, and 1996). Chapters are named after pop songs from those years, such as “Giving You the Best that I Got” by Anita Baker (1989) and “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel (1996).

More about Jonathan Alexander and his books on the Jonathan Alexander page at and his website,