on April 28, 2020
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, LGBTQ, Memoir, Young Adult, Young Adult Nonfiction
Early on in All Boys Aren’t Blue George M. Johnson quotes Toni Morrison. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”. George meets Morrison’s challenge in All Boys Aren’t Blue, a memoir-manifesto written for young adults. Black queer boys have always been present, but their stories are rarely shared in media. Johnson shares events from his childhood through his time at the historically black college, Virginia Union University. The stories are told with a focus on his black and queer identity. The manifesto portion of the book comes into play at the end of each chapter, where Johnson uses his lived experiences to offer advice and lessons to his readers. As George grows older, he develops acceptance of his identity and crafts his own version of masculinity.
Readers will experience themes of intersectionality, masculinity, family, coming out, brotherhood, and the loss of loved ones. Johnson shares his early sexual experiences. These are valuable exposures for young queer readers because same-sex intercourse is often intentionally omitted from sex education curricula. A standout figure in Johnson’s work is the delightful Nanny, the grandma every queer child deserves to have. Johnson includes current events and pop culture references throughout the book. Photographs of Johnson alongside family members and friends that are featured in the book make the work more personal. Johnson’s words of advice at the end of each chapter began to feel repetitive the further I got into the book. I would have preferred he did more showing than telling, especially when the lesson of the chapter is obvious after reading the story. But then I remembered this book was intended for an audience much younger than myself, so I believe the style is appropriate.
All Boys Aren’t Blue is an impressive debut for George M. Johnson. While this book is an invaluable read for queer black boys, Johnson’s story deserves attention from everyone.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Incest, Death and Dying