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Friday, April 17, 2020

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

George--well, Matt--grew up in New Jersey in a large family, always knowing he was different. In this memoir, which is written thematically rather than chronologically, he deals with many issues that kids today, especially kids with any number of identity, family, and/or sexual orientation questions, might face.

In each chapter he grapples with an issue, tells a story from his childhood of how that issue came up for him and was dealt with, and ends with a lesson, a piece of advice, and some words of wisdom. For example, in a chapter about identity, he learned abruptly from a cousin that his name wasn't Matt, it was George. Matt was his middle name, but that was never told to him before. He went by George briefly at school, but went back to Matt. Until he went to a private Catholic school for high school, that refused to use any name but one's legal first name for all students, so he was George there.

Above and beyond everything else, he was growing up Black in America, and also later figured out he was gay. For a while he thought he might be trans, as he always daydreamed about himself in the future as a girl or a woman, and he had a cousin who was trans, but he's not. His family always had some LGBTQ people in it going back many generations, so as he says, he was lucky as they were pretty accepting of his sexual orientation. Sure, there are exceptions, but over time, even those have come around for the most part.

He went to a traditionally black college in Virginia, wanting desperately to get away from New Jersey, and interestingly found another family in his fraternity, even though frats have historically very much not been welcoming to gay people. He wasn't out in college, but it seemed to be an open secret. No one seemed surprised he was gay, and several people had asked him that over the years.

This book would be absolutely wonderful for any teen questioning who they are, who they like, who they might be. Especially for kids who might belong to more than one minority group. But also for allies, and kids who want to know more about the experience. George is very open and honest and while not graphic, doesn't skirt around important topics. There's a reason, after all, why he's subtitles the book "A Memoir-Manifesto."

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-
related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux BYR, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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