Why Banning ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ Deprives Boys of Crucial Representation
By Rashauna Tunson
“You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.” ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto’ is a series of compelling stories from journalist/activist George M. Johnson, who prefers to use they/them pronouns. In this memoir, Johnson reminisces about anecdotes from their childhood growing up in a quiet town in New Jersey, as well as their experiences while in college and uses those as teaching points for a young adult audience. The author broaches a myriad of topics including: how social conditioning and outdated notions surrounding gender trap everyone in a box, how the intersection of being both Black and Queer creates a whole new level of marginalization that one must navigate. George truly seeks to be the mentor that they didn’t always have growing up in the 90s, and to help kids avoid the pitfalls they experienced as a questioning, closeted youth.
The story-telling in this book is so raw and unflinching, yet incredibly tender. I loved how Johnson blossomed into the vibrant person that they are today because they were surrounded by a caring family that had his back. Their personality shines brightly through their writing and this book feels like having a chat with a beloved old friend. I enjoyed reading about the relationship that they had with their beloved grandmother, simply known as Nanny. She saw George for exactly who they are and loved them fiercely. I hope that Nanny will inspire a generation of allies who look past heteronormativity to simply love the true person within. I think that every single person who reads this can relate to one aspect or another, from the family dynamics to trying to figure out who you are and what it means to belong.
Although ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ was one of the most acclaimed books of 2020, it remains on the receiving end of frequent challenges from critics who claim that the book is “sexually explicit”. I personally found the challenged scenes to be contextually appropriate. Johnson candidly shares their story of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted family member in the hopes that young people will recognize signs of abuse and how to protect themselves, or ask for help if they need to. Johnson also speaks openly about their struggles in learning what personal agency is and learning how to speak up about their feelings and needs. I appreciate how Johnson takes on the duty of reassuring role model for queer youth as well as people looking to support and uplift queer people in their life.
This book belongs in the hands of marginalized young queer people, namely queer Black males, who often don’t see themselves reflected in the media. Johnson, and myself as well, urge everyone who picks this book up to be brave and to love themselves fiercely, even if we live in a world that wants to diminish the joy that marginalized people may feel. I hope that this book helps people find themselves and not be afraid to share who they are with the world. You are seen!
About the Author
Rashauna Tunson (she/her) is a lifelong resident of Denver, Colorado and is a proud Black Queer. She is passionate about equality, Disco music, quoting ancient memes and petting cats. You can follow Rashauna on Twitter at @sk8tergrrrl666 or — if you’re lucky — you can catch her whipping around town on her roller skates!