In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren't Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
All Boys Aren't Blue is such an important read. George Johnson covers so many important topics through the telling of his story. He walks us through his
He refers to his work as a manifesto and with today's cultural and political climate I can see why. He is bold and intentional with his words yet offers hope at the same time. This is one book that needs to be required reading by every educator and parent to gain understanding of today's youth that may be feeling unwanted, unloved and discarded by society for simply trying to be who they are. I cried so many tears for George yet at the same time smiled and cheered every small victory and step he took in creating his own identity.
If you only read one YA book all year, I recommend this one. You will be completely transformed after being informed which is so important. Representation and visibility in literature not only validates but it can also instill purpose and provide hope to one who is fighting to just keep living. I know that many will feel seen after reading this beautifully written memoir. This bookdragon rates this one 🔥🔥🔥🔥.5 flames but no amount of words I have can justify how beautiful and necessary this book is.
In a series of personal essays, journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist Geroge M. Johnson talks about his childhood and growing up in New Jersey and his college years in Virginia.
From the author: “This book will touch on sexual assault (including molestation), loss of virginity, homophobia, racism, and anti-Blackness. These discussions at times may be a bit graphic, but nonetheless they are experiences that many reading this book will encounter or have already encountered. And I want those readers to be seen and heard in these pages.”
Yet another book that is being challenged in the year 2022 (and this time my hometown is one of them!). So of course, I added it to my TBR as soon as I could.
This book is everything I hoped it would be as soon as I read the summary. It’s an exploration of gender, identity, and sexuality. George M. Johnson writes a few times that, “Whether this book is a bestseller or a flop, if one person is helped by my story, then it was all worth it”, and I feel like he’s done this for sure as I am sure there will be youth out there who will benefit from this story. I must applaud Johnson for sharing his journey. No matter how hard or tough the subject was, he did an amazing job in writing it in a way that youth and teens of the LGBTQIA+ community will be able to pick up and see themselves in and not feel so alone.
It’s kind of crazy to me that we still live in a society, that even when you have a family as LGBTQIA+ supportive as Johnson’s family is/was (even without their knowledge about the LGBTQIA+ community), that Johnson still had a hard time coming out.
“No amount of money, love, or support can protect you from a society intent on killing you for your blackness, and shows that a community that has been taught that anyone “not straight” is dangerous.”
This memoir is raw, honest, and a story I believe everyone should hear/read.
He tells his story honestly and I grew to feel a lot of affection for his grand mother, parents and siblings.
I noticed that there are quite a few negative reviews that diminish his message of find out who you are and be yourself. He had a very loving family, he was fortunate, those withiut a supportive family would feel very alone and most likely desperate and might try to numb themselves with drugs or alcohol. I am sure that the negative reviews refer to his telling of his experience of childhold molestation. Of course reading it was hard and I felt angry that he was taken advantage of, he had not learned at that time to say no and how to say it! The author decries the lack of sex education in schools.
I believe that instead of banning this book, it would be preferred to plan a discussion of feelings before and after the chapter on molestation. The author decries the lack of sex education in the schools that he attended. One way of preventing this abuse by teaching children to recognize when they are being lured into a dangerous situation and help the child have a plan on how to halt it.
I need to stress that my three-star rating
On a lower-order level, I zigzagged between feeling talked down to--Jim Crow was explained in about two sentences as a series of laws meant to keep Black people down--but also expected to have a high level of knowledge already, like an understanding that microaggressions add up to trauma, and that trauma doesn't just mean physical harm. I have a feeling that a teen's knowledge of U.S. history and the many forms racism can take varies widely by geography and privilege.
But look, all of that is personal to me and my reading preferences. What Johnson sets out to do in his book, as he says, is show kids who might be like was--queer boys, particularly black queer boys--that there's someone like them who's had experiences they might relate to and who has not only survived, but ultimately thrived, even if confused and closeted well into college. And that, I think, makes this book profoundly important for teens. Yeah, maybe its relative shortness leaves it a bit scant on the details, but I also think that allows room for kids to project themselves onto Johnson's experiences.
And that includes the scenes that "concerned citizens" are decrying as pornographic:
Ever since I finished this book I've been thinking about whether I would be comfortable with a teenager of my own--particularly a gay son--reading these scenes in this book. And I think I've arrived at the conclusion that, yes, I would be okay with it, and would hope that they'd feel comfortable enough to talk to me about it. In my own experience, the soft-focus, super-vague love and sex scenes in what I read as a teen--both YA and adult--were uninformative and unrealistic. Johnson's book isn't a guide to sex and consent (I actually would have liked a little more discussion of the latter), but at least it's real and honest. I'll leave Johnson himself to discuss his reasons for getting so personal about his private life: go read his interview in TIME about his memoir and its subsequent banning.
I don't think I've ever read nonfiction or memoirs specifically targeted at a YA audience--I kind of skipped straight from middle grade to adult nonfiction--so I really don't have anything to compare with All Boys Aren't Blue. And, okay, yes, I'm very much not the target audience: I'm a heteroromantic white woman in my 30s who was either oblivious to or perplexed by my friends' crushes when I was a teenager. I've also been trying harder to educate myself in the past few years, so a lot of the concepts that Johnson introduces as though new--as they very might well be, to a teen--are familiar to me. But just because I'm not the intended audience doesn't make this book any less important.
Oh, and while I'm here, I totally think this book needs to be released in mass market paperback. Remember those? I used to load up on them in middle school and high school, but I rarely see kids' and YA books in that format these days. But if there's a book that needs to be small and unobtrusive, it's All Boys Aren't Blue. Let's make it easier for kids who need and want to read it to pass this book around in spite of bans!
content warnings for racism, homophobia, death of a grandparent, death of a friend.
Teenagers going through the same struggles as Johnson will appreciate their unflinchingly honest perspective. Their recounting of an episode of sexual abuse they experienced as a child was particularly brave. This is actually one of the excerpts that the parent groups trying to get this book banned have taken out of context and circulated. The fact that these groups would equate this scene with pornography makes it clear to me that they have not read the book. It’s not erotic at all and they should be ashamed of themselves for cheapening Johnson’s experience with their ignorance.
The other passage parents are upset about is when Johnson shares about losing their virginity – in college by the way. How many YA books feature young, white straight people losing their virginity or just plain out having sex repeatedly? Where’s the outcry? Judy Blume’s Forever, anyone? And again, this is not porn. This is a person being vulnerable and sharing an experience that teenagers will read and know that they are not alone in being scared and unsure. I can only imagine the impact it has on LGBTQ youth to read George’s story and know that not only are they not the only one who has struggled and been confused but that someone who went through it came out the other side a successful adult person. Representation matters.
Straight teens (and adults) should read this book too. It’s important to read about other people’s experiences and be able to see the world through a different lens. Books like this one can be powerful tools to build empathy and break down barriers.
This was one of the top 10 most banned books in 2021. It's a
Through writing, George captured the hardships of marginalized persons. George told and wrote a story in the style of their home community. This can make the timeline a little challenging. I admire Johnson’s dedication to creating an authentic experience for the reader.
As a memoir, Mr. Johnson tells about his life growing up queer. ("Queer" was a rude word that people didn't use when I was growing up, so I'm still adapting to the accepted and wanted use of the word now.) Not only is he gay, but
I found George to be someone who wants to help others. When his grandmother was declining, he took care of her. He took care of many family members, seeing it as a privilege. He writes, "...taking care of someone who took care of you is one of the most powerful and transformative things you could do on this earth" (191). Most people feel burdened or embarrassed; he felt honored. The book, itself, is his attempt to help others. I assume three scenes are the reason people want to ban the book. In one scene, he describes a time when someone wants to "teach" him about being gay. He clearly states that what happened was wrong. I believe this scene happens a lot with many, many teenagers: heterosexual or gay. No one talks about it. He does. Teens need to know that if something like this happens to them, stop the person. It may seem innocent and, perhaps, seemingly helpful. He explains that it is not. Without clarity, teens can only guess; they go along because it seems harmless and they're curious. The other two scenes are sex scenes between two men. I found them very clinical and factual. Sexy, they were not. I would think a gay male teen would learn from these informative scenes. I wasn't offended at all. Did I learn something? Yep, I did. I'm not the audience for these scenes, but there are plenty of young people who have zero knowledge. Instead of remaining in ignorance, give them knowledge. I told my friend who is 77 years old about the scenes, just to get another viewpoint. Her son is gay. She wished her son had had a book like this and hates that it's not available in many libraries.
I will say, had there not been issues with the book, I never would have read it. I need to know what's out there for teens. If I have a parent whose child is gay and male, I could explain what the book entails and recommend it. Remember, libraries are about choice. When people need information, they have the ability to find it. Everyone needs different information. This book isn't required reading. If someone needs it, he has the choice to read it and decide what information informs him. If he doesn't find it useful, he can close the book and move on to another that will be more helpful. In the end, I think the book can help specific people. It can also open other people's eyes to a reality that we don't know exists. It becomes informative, allowing us to support all people with love and acceptance, without judgement.