When we had our book club vote for September, I was secretly hoping that All Boys Aren’t Blue would be one of the ones we chose. I was flabbergasted that in November of last year the memoir had a criminal report filed with the Flagler County Sheriff’s office by a member of the Flagler County School Board arguing that the book’s inclusion in three district school libraries violated state obscenity laws because it contained sexually graphic material. It has also been removed from school libraries in at least eight states and is ALA’s third most challenged book of 2021. All because the author wanted to see stories like theirs on the shelves so that children like them would feel less alone. Because queer, Black stories from the Black perspective are largely missing from the pop culture landscape.
I loved this book. George M. Johnson writes so beautifully and openly about their life that you are brought into their understanding of the two big identities that intersect in their life, queerness and Blackness. I don’t live too far from where Johnson grew up so there was that added layer for me, but what Johnson sets out to achieve for the younger audience they also achieved with me.
I’m certainly not alone in liking this work and finding value in it. Johnson’s reflections on growing up Black and queer was optioned by Gabrielle Union-Wade’s production company for a television series. I’m with Johnson, books with heavy topics are not going to harm children and young adults. They live in the world which is full of heavy topics (think back to your own growing up years), and are going to be affected by them. Books like this one give them (and us) the tools, the language, the resources and the education to deal with some of the tough things that will come their way.
Bingo Square: Cold (This is a book that has been given the proverbial cold shoulder, the third most challenged book of 2021.)