cover image All Boys Aren’t Blue

All Boys Aren’t Blue

George M. Johnson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-37431-271-8

Billed as a “memoir-manifesto,” Johnson’s debut is a collection of heartfelt personal essays revolving around themes of identity and family. Growing up black and queer in New Jersey and Virginia, Johnson feels a tension between these two identities, even before he’s fully conceptualized what makes him stand out from others in his close-knit family. The loving Elder/Johnson clan, led by witty matriarch Nanny (whose take on familial loyalty and intimacy is “You might have to wipe my ass one day”), includes Johnson’s cousin Hope, a trans woman who models pride and self-determination. Johnson makes impassioned declarations about the importance of community and inclusive sex education, and the freedom to define oneself outside of society’s conditioning. Though at first glance the book lacks the synthesizing call to action that “manifesto” would imply, its “be yourself” message remains a radical stance for doubly marginalized individuals. Johnson’s writing is a stylistic hodgepodge of anecdotes (“story time,” he periodically declares) and letters to relatives. In a publishing landscape in need of queer black voices, readers who are sorting through similar concepts will be grateful to join him on the journey. 14–up. [em](Apr.) [/em]