A Girl Named Hannah
I'm a writer, a director, and a teacher. My students are at risk youth, and, needless to say I do not teach the typical English curriculum. One of the books that I do teach is the novel Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
For those of you who don't know what the novel is about, Thirteen Reasons Why is a novel that centers on two teenagers, Clay Jenson and Hannah Baker. Hannah committed suicide, and she has thirteen reasons why. Her reasons are recorded on a series of tapes, which were mailed to a select group of people, one of them being Clay. I don’t even want to get into the semantics of the book, because I’d hate to spoil it for those who have yet to read it!
Thirteen Reasons Why touched my soul, and I have no doubt it has that same effect for all of its readers. It's a reminder of how fragile the human heart can be, especially the hearts of teenagers. I see it as a teacher, the students who are just searching for someone or something to make them feel important, to make them feel special, to make them feel and know that they are loved. High school can be tough terrain, and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.
I don't think there's a person out there who hasn't had a friend disappoint them, experienced heartbreak, and/or felt completely lost. This book is an enormous reminder that we all have low points, and we all need someone to lean on.
The day I finished the novel, I came across another girl named Hannah. I was doing some research for my classes and writing projects, and I stumbled across the website, The World Needs More Love Letters, and its founder, Hannah Brencher.
The World Needs More Love Letters started in October of 2010, on the four train in New York City. Hannah, a new NYC resident, was feeling rather lost, rather jumbled, and alone amongst the hustle and bustle of the big apple. Her loneliness was mirrored in her fellow passengers on the 4 train, and so, she began to write letters to cheer people up. She left them on the subways, in libraries, and all around NYC. Brencher says that it healed her, and I have no doubt that it brought a smile to the hundreds of people who have received the letters of this truly remarkable organization.
Recently, my students have adopted a bundle of love letters, and you can find out more about adopting your own bundle when you visit MoreLoveLetters.com. But what I will tell you is that they wrote to a woman in Maine, Alice, who is undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Alice is a social worker, a single mother, and a wonderful friend. My students wrote letters to her in the hopes of lifting her spirits, brightening her day, and giving her encouragement during this difficult time in her life. I was so moved at what they wrote. This woman that they had never met inspired them to be the best versions of themselves. It was fantastic.
If there were more love letters, perhaps high school would be a little bit more bearable. If there were more people in this world like Hannah Brencher, the world would be a better place. If there were more people like Hannah Brencher, perhaps there would be no more stories like that of Hannah Baker.
Megan Minutillo is an English and theater teacher on Long Island, NY. When she is not teaching, she can be found directing in various theaters and schools, most recently for the Young American Writers Project at Stony brook Southampton. Megan obtained her B.A. at Binghamton University, and received her M.A. in Educational Theater and English Education at NYU. Her newest project, The Write Teacher, combines her love of writing, theater, literature, and education. The Write Teacher is a blog that reviews literature and theater for an extensive audience, stemming from adolescents to mothers of the latter, and everyone in between.