Mini-Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue

Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir Manifesto
Author: George M. Johnson
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 304
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley & Purchased copy
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: 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.

My review: “be BOLD and BRAVE and QUEER” is the message on the back of this book. George M. Johnson has done just that in this his memoir manifesto which is a very public declaration of his life and intentions.

Throughout the book, Johnson is sharing intimate details about gender, sexuality, and race while also showing how each of these things affect how he has been seen and how he sees the world. He shares hard truths like, “my life story is proof that no amount of money, love, or support can protect you from a society intent on killing you for your Blackness.” He also shares family love. Much of this book seemed to be a love letter to his grandmother – Nanny. He shares traumas and the complicated messiness of life. You’ll even bump into a few brief history lessons that show how the telling of history can be so very different depending on who is telling it and what they think of the students they’re telling it to. There’s so much here to appreciate. And yes, because there is some heavy stuff here, the delivery can be pretty serious, but Johnson’s playfulness and sense of humor also rings out here and there.

Recommendation: Get it now. There are painful moments in this book for sure, but there is also joy and much love. This book is an act of bravery and helps readers see one experience of being queer and Black right now. For some, this may be one of the first times they truly see themselves on the page. For others, this is an opportunity to see the many things they have in common with someone they may have believed was very different from them.