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.