Sunday 8 October 2023

CBR15 Book 51: "All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR15 Bingo: Queer Lives

In July, the Forever Young Adult Reading Challenge prompt was Banned Books. Since All Boys Aren't Blue was the second most banned book in America during the 2021-2022 school year, only beaten by Gender Queer, and I'd had the book on my digital bookshelf for a while, it felt like a suitable book to choose. This book was also one of the book club selections last year for the Cannonball book club, when we did banned books (this year we did banned graphic novels) and I never got round to reading it back then. But now I have.

All Books Aren't Blue is a memoir aimed at young adult readers, written by queer activist George M. Johnson (they/them). The book is about growing up Black and queer, and always feeling different but not having the words to express it. Johnson wanted to give black and queer youths growing up now more of a vocabulary to talk about their own experiences. Johnson said in an interview with NPR that although the book has been banned or challenged by more than 26 school districts, it still has more defenders than detractors, and he doesn't regret writing the book. They say that "students have publicly said on record that works like mine have saved their lives, works like mine have helped them name their abusers, works like mine have helped them come to terms with who they are and feel validated in the fact that there is somebody else that exists in the world like them,"

I am a white, middle-aged, cis-gendered woman, so the experiences Johnson writes about in this memoir were entirely different from anything I experienced growing up in a privileged middle-class family in Norway. I am deeply grateful that books like this exist, so youths in similar situations to Johnson, black and/or queer, can see that they are not alone out there. I am grateful that I can learn and expand my own understanding of the lives of others because it's only through being open and interested that we continue to grow and improve as people. I am glad that there are still a lot more parents,  educators, and/or librarians out there working to get this book out to young people than there are trying to repress and ban this book. 

Judging a book by its cover: The beautiful flower crown that Johnson is wearing on the illustrated cover of this book feels very joyful, and it certainly caught my eye and made me read more about it the first time I saw it. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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