Chasten Buttigieg’s memoir, I Have Something to Tell You, was originally published at the height of the pandemic, during the lockdown in 2020 that felt like it would never end. Like so many authors, Buttigieg was relegated to a virtual book tour from behind a screen. For this new edition, an adaptation for young adults, Buttigieg wanted to do all that he could to get out there, on the road, not only to promote the book but also to take part in the conversation around censorship in America. “The first version of the book had to be so many things all at once,” Buttigieg told PW. “I wanted this version to have a lot of stories and lessons learned from the valleys and the peaks of my childhood experience.”
The new edition chronicles the author’s childhood growing up in a small conservative town and all the peril and struggle in hiding and conforming to everyone’s impression of what they thought he should be. “I was fighting to blend in,” Buttigieg said. “I thought [other peoples’] opinions were the only ones that mattered.” The memoir provides many of those harrowing moments where the author lived in fear of not being able to come out and be himself. “I was so afraid that they would find out this big secret about me, and I would lose everything,” Buttigieg said.
His book tour was designed to stop by cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland, Ore., but Buttigieg insisted that an equal amount of attention be placed on going to locations where anti-LGBTQ legislation and book censorship are bubbling up, including Florida, Missouri, Utah, Texas, and more. “It was important for me to do,” Buttigieg explained. “I am coming to you.” His motivations for visiting a diverse range of cities stemmed from his awareness that many people are feeling helpless in the face of current struggles. “We’re not running away,” Buttigieg says. “There are queer people living in the States who need us.”
What was initially set to be 12 cities in two weeks grew to more than 25 stops. “I’m glad that we can continue finding ways to have more book talks throughout the summer,” Buttigieg said. The tour has extended well into the fall, with at least one stop in early 2024. There’s also a strong effort to work with and spotlight nonprofit organizations throughout the country. “We’ve been pushing folks to donate copies to local nonprofits,” Buttigieg said. This includes working with organizations like Equality Florida, offering them everything from a spot to table at events to giving directions to attendees seeking help.
Buttigieg shared an anecdote from the road. While visiting Austin, Tex., a mother showed up to the event. “You could tell she was exhausted,” Buttigieg said. “She was struggling to get through her question [during the q&a].” He quickly understood that it was less about the question and more about her feeling helpless and exhausted. This wasn’t the first time Buttigieg had seen this level of worry and defeat. “People are beating themselves up because they themselves aren’t solving all the problems,” he said. Yet what he has been able to see is just how devoted people are. “She loves her kid,” Buttigieg said. “That, in itself, is a miracle because not every kid gets that.”
The story highlights how love and devotion can so easily get lost when it feels like there’s no community, and no one around to turn to. “We were able to connect her with other people right there in the same room,” Buttigieg said. “Not just organizations but also other parents who themselves felt exhausted and needed to find other people.”
We spoke with Buttigieg during his stop in Washington, D.C., where he explained that he isn’t there just to have a book talk. He’s there to “sit down with Kate Oakley, the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, to get caught up on all the bills happening around the country.” At his events he’s intent on creating a space where people can express themselves and show their allyship. The memoir, like the tour, is continuing to gain traction, and Buttigieg, “as an ally and an advocate who feels the tremendous weight and responsibility to the community,” is doing what he can to continue the conversation and help.