Skip to content

Review: Letters Lived

  • by

I picked up Letters Lived: Radical Reflections, Revolutionary Paths at the Festival of Literary Diversity last year. It’s not the kind of book I would normally pick up, but I’ve been trying to be more aware of social issues and learn about things I can do to make the world a better place. Who better to turn to then, than activists who’ve been working to these ends for a good deal of their lives?


In Letters Lived a group of diverse, multi-generational activists pen letters to their former selves. In these letters, they on the journey’s they’ve taken since their teen years and share their advice. They also give their teen selves and a look at what they wished they’d known earlier.

Edited by Sheila Sampath, this collection contains candid and powerful stories that explore the personal and the political. Letters Lived engages with social justice issues, sexual and gender identity, race and culture, and community building, ultimately illustrating the power we have to influence our world.

Let’s get into it…

The first thing that struck me when reading this book was that I didn’t know most of the writers. You might chalk that up to my relative failure to be aware of or engage in activism, but I think it also speaks to the lack of thanks and recognition that those working to better the world often receive. So often we only see those within our small sphere’s of influence, the friends who volunteer or the celebrity being praised on social media. It’s easy to forget all the other folks out there leading the way. Books like this are a good reminder that there are people working daily to fight injustice and to help others.

The collection is quite diverse. There are different countries, genders, and races included, so there’s a wide range of topics and interests covered. Since the letters are to the writers’ teen selves, I didn’t immediately relate to all of them. However, that’s not an issue because it’s still interesting to get a glimpse of their lives. It’s like sitting in on the conversation.

The writers don’t shy away from talking about hardships, but throughout this collection there is a sense of hope. The letters share a reverence for the communities that each writer found and works with and for. The writers encourage readers to be open, to take care of themselves, and to believe that change is possible. There’s also advice and reassurance that “less practical” pursuits, like art, are worthwhile.

Final verdict: This is a lovely collection that offers a lot of hope. I think it’s a good read for those who want to know more about these particular activists or for those just beginning to wonder how they’ll bring good into the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: