‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ review

Michelle Wang, Opinion Editor

“Navigating in a space that questions your humanity isn’t really living at all. It’s existing. We all deserve more than just the ability to exist.”

George M. Johnson, All Boys Aren’t Blue

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” written by George M. Johnson is a self-described memoir manifesto into the life of Johnson themself. The book simultaneously incorporates both a memoir, detailing Johnson’s life experiences, and a manifesto with their advice and agenda as a queer Black person. Johnson uses they/them pronouns and is an author, journalist and activist. The book, published in 2020 first describes Johnson’s childhood and then progresses to their college experience. 

The book follows a first-person perspective of Johnson’s childhood growing up in Plainsfield, New Jersey whilst attending a predominantly black middle school but a largely white Catholic high school. Johnson details their experience in college while finding their identity and community in different groups.

However, the crux of the book centers around Johnson’s relationship with their family members. Johnson describes the pivotal impact of Nanny on their development as well as their close connection with other family members. I enjoyed reading about how supportive Johnson’s family was of their identity. The book centers around themes of LGBTQ, family, identity and grief. Johnson expresses their experiences through a genuine voice which was very relatable to read. 

The greatest takeaway from the book is the positive messages that it sends; Johnson frequently mentions the word ‘agency’ which is defined by them as the ability to control your own narrative. This theme appears throughout the book as Johnson includes tidbits of advice sprinkled throughout each chapter. 

A few of my favorite pieces of advice are when Johnson urges the reader not to be confined to an identity that boxes you into a space where you have to choose one or the other. Johnson also advises queer readers to “be bold and brave and queer.” 

I recommend this book to everyone regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation and race. The book provides an underrepresented perspective of a queer black person navigating childhood to adulthood. The prose is easy to follow and aimed at high school students. It covers difficult topics through a well-written narrative. 

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” is one of the most challenged books of the year with the American Library Association naming it the third most banned book in 2021. The book has been banned for sexually-explicit content as well as its LGBTQ content. Since its publication, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” has been banned by 29 school districts. The book is currently not banned by Baltimore County Public Schools; you can read the book through your public library!

I believe that this book should not be banned as it is necessary to see representation of a predominantly marginalized group.  The portions of the book which include sexually explicit content are primarily included to show Johnson’s own experiences regarding abuse and the lack of LGBTQ education they were exposed to while growing up. These portions may be difficult to read but are critical for readers to see themselves represented in situations that are often not mentioned. 

In my opinion, books should never be banned unless they exude hatred or any form of discrimination.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” is empowering and representative and I recommend it to everyone, especially to any queer Black individuals.

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” is a provocative and beautifully written book, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.