*Please note: this event is open to ages 12+ and will be streamed live on Zoom, hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library’s Teen’Scape department. Register here.

You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves is an inclusive anthology for teen girls, released by Workman Publishing on March 30, 2021. Editor Diana Whitney has collected the voices she wishes she’d heard when she was a teen, from luminaries like Maya Angelou and Mary Oliver to icons like Amanda Gorman, as well as emerging poets and spoken-word stars. The poems in this collection speak candidly about depression, rage, desire, shame, identity, body image, sexual violence, queer love, self-love, and much more.

In this conversation, Whitney joins Safia Elhillo and Michelle Tea to read their poems and talk about the ways poetry has been a path for self-discovery, self-acceptance and empathy. They’ll share their own writing practices and discuss how poetry can offer solace in times of emotional need, expanding our world and helping us feel less alone. 


Write a poem that breaks silence in some way, or a poem where the speaker reveals something they’ve never said before

Write a poem expressing a conflicted or “taboo" emotion, such as Longing, Rage, or Shame



You Don't Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves (Workman Publishing)

Poetry has always been a great liberator and holds the unique ability to connect people through language, to acknowledge pain and suffering while offering compassion and hope. From scrolls to print and now on social media boasting over a million #instapoetry tags, this ancient artform is a vital antidote to the ills of the world.

The same sentiments prevail in You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves. A gift to young women experiencing the challenges of adolescence, the collection is filled with works by a wide range of poets who are honest, unafraid, and skilled at addressing the complex feelings of coming-of-age, from loneliness to joy, longing to fear, attitude to anger. Tackling questions of gender, sexuality, harassment, and pain while celebrating beauty, risk, and self-discovery, You Don’t Have to Be Everything is edited by Diana Whitney, indie-bestselling author, award-winning poet, and former poetry critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

From giants of the genre such as Maya Angelou, Joy Harjo, and Mary Oliver, to recent breakout voices like National Book Award Winner Elizabeth Acevedo and nominee Natalie Diaz to emerging talents such as Amanda Gorman and Instagram famous poets Kate Baer, Nikita Gill, and Andrea Gibson, the 68 authors featured in You Don’t Have to Be Everything represent a diverse range of voices, all of whom have dealt with the struggle and joy of discovering who they are and who they are becoming.

Grouped by emotions (Seeking, Loneliness, Attitude, Rage, Longing, Shame, Sadness, and Belonging), each chapter gives readers permission to let go of shame and perfectionism, urging them to accept their own contradictions and embrace the complexity and fullness of their own identity. For example:

The collection offers a compassionate, empowering lens through which young women can see themselves. It urges them to accept who they are rather than who they “should” be. Filled with diverse perspectives and poignant insights, You Don’t Have to Be Everything has the power to reach young readers and give them the courage to shine their own light.

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House, forthcoming), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee (receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.” Safia’s work appears in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her work has been translated into several languages, and commissioned by Under Armour, Cuyana, and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.
Michelle Tea is a queer writer, and the host of the Spotify original podcast Your Magic, which explores and celebrates all things witchy. She is the author of the poetry collections The Beautiful, the tarot how-to Modern Tarot, and the essay collection Against Memoir, which was the PEN/American Dimonstein-Spielvogel Award for The Art of the Essay. Follow her on Instagram at @michelleteaz, follow Your Magic @thisisyourmagic, and sign up for their weekly mystical newsletter at thisisyourmagic.com

Diana Whitney writes across genres in Vermont with a focus on feminism, motherhood, and sexuality. Her first book, Wanting It, became an indie bestseller and won the Rubery Book Award in poetry. For years she was the poetry critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, where she featured women authors and LGBTQ voices in her column. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Glamour, the Washington Post, the Kenyon Review, and many more. A feminist activist in her hometown and beyond, Diana advocates for survivors of sexual violence and fights for the rights of women and girls. Find out more at diana-whitney.com.

Cristina González is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Quito, Ecuador. Her work talks about sexuality, mental health, self-love, and equity, supporting all gender expressions and diversity of races and body shapes.

Kate Mockford is an illustrator living in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Her illustrations are sensitive, colorful, and playful, with a splash of texture and striking compositions.

Stephanie Singleton is a freelance illustrator with a love for all things decorative and surreal. She is currently based in Toronto, Canada.


Event date: 
Monday, April 12, 2021 - 4:00pm
Event address: 
You Don't Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves Cover Image
By Diana Whitney (Editor)
ISBN: 9781523510993
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: Workman Publishing Company - March 30th, 2021

Home Is Not a Country Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593177051
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Make Me a World - March 2nd, 2021

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek Cover Image
By Michelle Tea, Jason Polan (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781938073953
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: McSweeney's - July 1st, 2014

Castle on the River Vistula Cover Image
ISBN: 9781944211288
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: McSweeney's McMullens - January 22nd, 2019

Girl at the Bottom of the Sea Cover Image
By Michelle Tea, Amanda Verwey (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781940450001
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: McSweeney's - June 1st, 2015