Saturday, February 4, 2023

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson


When I found out that ALL BOYS AREN'T BLUE was the second-most banned book in the U.S., I made getting a copy a top priority. Banning books is so wrong; not only is it unconstitutional, but I find it to be a type of thought-policing. It also makes me wonder-- what's in this book that you're so desperately trying to hide? There is literally no faster way to make me read something than by unhauling it from a library, and best be sure that I'm going to tell all my followers to read it, too.

For a banned book, ALL BOYS AREN'T BLUE really isn't that revolutionary or extraordinary, which honestly says a lot about the people trying to remove this from shelves. Most of what the author, George M. Johnson, says makes a lot of sense. They talk a lot about their family life and not fitting in with boys or the expected gender norms of the Black and white communities. They talk about some of their early traumas and how that shaped them, whether it was being jumped at five, or watching their cousin nearly drown. They talk a lot about how integral their family's support was in shaping their identity and leading to what was, mostly, a healthy upbringing.

Apparently, this is a memoir that is largely targeted at young adults, which explains why parts felt so instructional. I am not a young adult, so I realize-- belatedly-- that I am not in the target audience for this book. Despite that, I think there is so much value in this book as a resource. All the things the author talked about regarding the shaping of his identity and not fitting in will probably be so relatable and important for other nonbinary or trans kids experiencing the same thoughts and sense of alienation. Knowing you're not alone when you're feeling lonely and out of place is seriously such a balm. He also briefly discusses sex, and how sex with someone you like can be bad sex (a valuable lesson), and a little bit about sexual abuse, and the lasting impact that that can make on someone.

I'm giving this a three star rating because it wasn't perfect and there were a few things I didn't like about it. The passage about 9/11, as other people have said, was a bit... uh, weird. They also made a choice to dead name one of their trans relatives, and while I believe this is to provide context about their family's struggle to understand and accept what being trans meant, it was a weird thing to do, especially since early on, George writes about the shock of finding out that his name wasn't really Matthew but George when he was a kid, and emphasizing the importance of calling people what they want to be called. Some of the essays also felt a little disorganized and messy. But what redeemed this book for me in the end were the great passages about his family and the overall message of staying true to yourself.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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