This book caught my attention for several reasons, not the least because I was brought up in the same community as the author, Plainfield, New Jersey, a bedroom suburb of the New York Metropolitan area. We even went to the same elementary school, Fredrick W. Cook. Although I was 15 in the early 60s and the author was that age in 2004, missing each other by some 40 years, but understanding how communities change over the years to benefit some at the detriment of others is essential to recognize. My grandfather worked for Mack Truck, one of several manufacturing companies in the area, and my father worked for Johnson & Johnson.
In my first year of middle school, I remember seeing few Black children in my classes because I was in the higher-level courses and these Black kids were studious and seemed effeminate. I also remember a “millionaires’ row” of houses that came from the wealth generated by the railroads of these mansions owned by white families. This, according to the author, contrasted with “Black folks, who don’t get to have intergenerational wealth like our white neighbors just one block over.”
I’ll never forget one school trip to the Bronx Zoo when we were attacked by a “gang” of Black kids—some girls pulled out the colorful bows in a girlfriend’s hair. I don’t remember the circumstances. We were the target of some frustration and violence.
When I was 16, my parents moved us to Colorado, where my father went to the University of Denver. When I was watching the news one evening, I saw the early days of race riots that plagued many towns in New Jersey and around the country. I remember thinking, “What was that about? Boy, am I glad we got out of there!’
Plainfield had its own rebellion in 1967, which was in the wake of the Newark riots and resulted in the New Jersey National Guard being called in to restore order. The violence led to a massive “white flight,” and Black residents went from 40% in 1970 to 60% in 1980. And, although I’ve never returned to Plainfield, my middle daughter did when she was in college, and she said the neighborhood where my parents and grandparents lived was now a predominately Black community. So much changed from when I was a child to when the author was brought up there.
Another reason I wanted to read this book was due to being an active member of PEN America, which promotes freedom of expression. I was aware that this book is among the most challenged and banned books in the country, not surprisingly, as it is rated first or second for many of the most targeted genres: Teen and Young Adult books on sexuality, intimacy, and LGBTQ issues—making this a book that needed to be recognized.
As the author explains, the book does deal with subjects that will make some readers uncomfortable, like sexual assault, loss of virginity, homophobia, racism, and anti-Blackness. Still, these are experiences that many readers will encounter, and he wants them to be “seen and heard.” He wrote the book expressly to give voice to marginalized communities “whose experiences have not yet been captured between the pages of a book.”
The book also explores the author’s two identities – Black and queer – and he becomes aware of their intersections within him and in society. The author suffered a different type of violence, culminating in a traumatic experience. His cousins accompanied him from school to his grandmother’s, where he lived, when a gang led by a white kid attacked them and –
My teeth shattered like glass hitting the concrete. At that moment, I felt nothing. It was as if it were all a dream. Then I felt the pain. I also felt an emotion I had never experienced before: rage…
His entire perspective of being a Black person in this society was radically changed at 23, when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin and he became aware of seeing the shooting of Black people by the police. This motivated the title of his book,
When I say I’m not “blue,” I mean so much more than a color traditionally designated to represent boy. When I say I’m not blue, I’m referring to the blue on the police uniform my father wore, how I’ve watched too many in their same blue harm Black and brown people. I know for myself that although I respect my father with all my heart, it is my duty to fight against how the institution has harmed us.
The author was motivated by a quote from author Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” After which, he says, “This is the story of George Matthew Johnson. This is a story for us all.” He ends with, “Whether this book is a bestseller or a flop, if one person is helped by my story, then it was all worth it.”
Publishers Weekly states the importance of this book, whose popularity exceeded the author’s expectations, “All Boys Aren’t Blue is a balm and testimony to young readers as allies in the fight for equality.”
- Publisher : PENGUIN; International Edition (March 4, 2021)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 0241515033
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241515037
- Reading age : 13+ years, from customers
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Dimensions : 08 x 0.79 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
George M. Johnson is an Award Winning Black Non-Binary Writer, Author, and Activist located in the NYC area. From the scores of places George has written for to the outlets who have written about George, their connections in the media world run deep, with his knowledge and expertise being called upon from publishing to the big screen.
George has written for major and niche media outlets like, Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight, NBC, The Root, Buzzfeed, Essence, Ebony, THEM, and The Grio. He has also served as Guest Editor for BET.com’s Pride month.
He writes on topics ranging from Race, Gender, Sex, HIV, Intersectionality, Politics, Culture, Health and Pop-Culture, and are never afraid to “go there” and ask the tough questions.
George has also been seen on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton on MSNBC, Buzzfeed’s AM2DM, The Grapevine, PBS Nightly News, and various shows on Sirius XM Radio. George also moderates and speaks on many panels throughout the year including clients like Gilead Pharmaceuticals, Twitter & amp; Proctor and Gamble and Human Rights Campaign.
George has an impressive presence on social media, with nearly 80,000 engaged followers on Twitter who are always eager to see what he is writing next.
George is an HIV and LGBTQ activist, serving as Chair of the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition for Gay Black Men for AIDS Healthcare Foundation and being called upon to discuss various issues facing the LGBTQ community, from civil rights leaders to politicians.
George is also a proud HBCU alum twice over and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.
Mark D. Walker is a contributing writer for The Authors Show, Wanderlust Journal, Revue Magazine, and the Literary Traveler. His column, “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading and Why,” is part of the Arizona Authors Association newsletter. His first book is Different Latitudes: My Life of the Peace Corps and Beyond. His latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, is now available on Cyberwit.net. His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can find over 65 book reviews and 25 of his articles at www.MillionMileWalker.com.