Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
George M. Johnson
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Published April 28, 2020

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About All Boys Aren’t Blue

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

George M. Johnson’s writing style definitely drew me in. He has this ability to dive into places in the human soul that I think we are often afraid to travel openly. He said things that challenged me but also things that resonated with me so deeply that I still feel their echoes.

The book is divided up into four parts, each part made up of chapters about different topics. He describes family connections and the way that his family consistently pulled together to love one another, acknowledging their imperfections, but recognizing the gift those relationships have been to him.

He also shares some vulnerable experiences in order to talk about how little information he had and how that affected choices he made. Some of the descriptions of these events are graphic. I really liked that he offered the context for his decision to include those stories, though, and his desire to help foster better education for the generation coming after him.

All in all, this is a poignant, brave, and articulate memoir that has a lot to offer its readers in terms of identity, culture, and masculinity.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

George is Black and queer. Some of his family members and friends also identify as LGBTQIA+

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently. The author also uses racist and homophobic slurs at times in the book. He explains his choices in an opening letter to readers.

Romance/Sexual Content
George describes a night when he was 13 and an older cousin molested him.

George also describes sexual experiences he had in college in one chapter.

Spiritual Content
George attended a Catholic high school.

Violent Content
Descriptions of a fight between boys in which two boys held George down while another kicked his front teeth in. Later, he references a cousin who was killed in a fight on the street.

Drug Content
Brief description of kids sneaking liquor from their parents’ cabinet. In college, George drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. He talks about how his smoking habit impacted his college attendance and grades.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.