"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Nonfiction review: ALL BOYS AREN'T BLUE

All Boys Aren't Blue is a YA memoir written by George M. Johnson, a LGBTQUIA+ activist. The story is about his young life as he grappled with an awareness of what made him different from his peers, siblings, and  cousins. Many of his memories are warm and wonderful while many are gut-wrenching and heart-breaking about growing up black and queer.

Unlike so many people, George Johnson grew up in a warm and supportive family dominated by his mother's mother, Nanny. She knew instinctively that George was different and took him under her wing. Her love and acceptance of George went a long was to launch him into the person he has become today. She said, "I love all of my grandkids, but I love each of you differently. Because you each need different things." George said that phrase "different things" part spoke to his soul.

The family may have been warm and accepting but the world often wasn't and George shares many stories, starting with getting his teeth knocked out in kindergarten at age six, when kids bullied or teased him in school. Kids can be so mean for the littlest infractions like pimples or frizzy hair, imagine how awful they can be to an effeminate boy. Throughout the book George explores the "intersectional identities in his own life by weaving questions of gender, masculinity, brotherhood, family, and Black joy throughout all this stories" (Book Jacket).

George decided he wanted to write this young adult memoir as a reassuring testimony for queer men of color, so that they can find a way to integrate themselves into a whole, perfectly designed person.

What I liked about the book:

  • My favorite parts of each chapter were the summaries of that chapter's theme. For example, at the end of the chapter about his own name, George Johnson says, "Suffice it to say, respect people for their names, and how they choose to identify. This also goes for respecting people for their choice of pronouns--him/her, she/he, they/them, god, goddess, or whatever."
  • This book is really important as is its placement on the shelves of libraries that teens frequent. Black queer teens need to be able to find themselves on the pages of the books they read.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • Every chapter wasn't directed to the generic reader which made it awkward and confusing at times. Sometimes George seemed to be writing a chapter to a particular person, referring to that person as 'you' while most of the chapters referred to others by their names. Occasionally he would insert a letter written specifically to one person. These at least used a different font so it wasn't as confusing.
  • Several times in the book George Johnson refers to people who have died untimely deaths and how the deaths impacted him. By only giving the barest of details, readers are left out of the full emotional impact of the event. I didn't want to be a voyeur, it just felt like a few more details would have been helpful and warranted.
  • This isn't really a criticism but a warning. This book is not designed for younger teens or pre-teens. There is some descriptions of explicit sex

Source: print edition checked out from public library.

-Anne

4 comments:

  1. I have been hearing about this book for a while now. It seems such an important one to have on school shelves since it is nonfiction. It could be part of the #itgetsbetter movement.

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  2. I really appreciated the frankness, vulnerable, and openness of the author. Some parts of the book were hard to read, but so important to address. I listened to the audio so I didn't notice the shift of the audience. Glad this book exisits and I am looking forward to George's next book.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. I am glad it exists, too. Since I was judging the book as part of the Cybils I was thinking about the good and bad aspect of each book to help me hone in on a winner. That is why my comment about the audience shift.

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