“Be bold and brave and queer. I know that’s easy to say and much harder to do. I know that some people will never be able to actually exhibit their queer identity in that way for reasons of safety.”
Why Did I Read This Book?
As part of Pride Month, I wanted to incorporate some queer lit into my June reads. I chose All Boys Aren’t Blue after falling in love with the beautiful book cover, as well as the story/memoir behind it. I had heard great things all over social media, so I thought I’d give it a go.
What Did I Think?
The more I read memoir books, the more I fall in love with that genre. I really enjoy sitting down with a cup of tea and letting these wonderful human beings tell me their life story.
All Boys Aren’t Blue is written by journalist and activist George M. Johnson and from the very start of the book, I was hooked. For me, I could really hear George’s voice whilst I was reading, and therefore I flew through this book in a matter of days. I was obsessed. The book, and especially his story, was playing on my mind all the time and I just couldn’t wait to pick the book back up again and pick up where I had left off.
I think George is an incredibly strong character and I honestly think the way that members of the LGBTQIA+ community deal with the constant abuse and awful comments, makes me put these people of a pedestal. They are true heroes in my opinion, and I think they are so strong and determined to go about their daily life, knowing they will inevitably receive some homophobic backlash for their actions, with their head held high. Honestly, I salute each and every one of you.
What I loved about George’s story is his family. George grew up in a brilliantly big family and one in which he was incredibly loved by everyone around him, especially his grandma. His grandma was an exceptional woman, and I can imagine her as this big woman who made THE best food and gave THE best hugs. Those kind of hugs that make everything OK in the world again. I’m so glad that George had this experience of being part of a loving family, as its often very different in the other queer lit I have read.
It is interesting that even though George knew he had feelings for men, he never really openly admitted to other people that he was gay. He had great difficulty in confiding in those around him, even though his friends and family were quick to realise. George speaks a lot about love in his touching memoir, especially raising the point that if there wasn’t such a stigma and fear attached to ‘coming out’, then maybe relationships and experiences could have been very different for George.
“But despite the obstacles, we have the opportunity to be a blueprint. We get to make the rules and set the terms for what our love will look like for generations to come. Love who you want to love and do it unapologetically, including that face you see every day in the mirror. I deserved that kind of love. Zae deserved that kind of love. We deserve that kind of love.”
George also discusses race and the teaching of history in education. He talks very honestly about his experiences during school, and how the school curriculum in primary school very much focused on how great American history was and held men such as Abraham Lincoln on a pedestal. Even George himself was obsessed with these historical figures. Yet as his education developed and he began to learn less about African American History, he began questioning his teachers on what they were teaching. One poignant moment for me was when his teacher during secondary school claimed that slavery was ‘of its time’ and admitted that he would have probably had slaves back in those days. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, and I was as gobsmacked as George and his classmates probably were when it was said.
So one important lesson to take from this book, which seems very topical following the #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place all over the world right now, is that the best way to fight oppression is to be educated. I’m a firm believer that reading is power, and therefore to fight oppression, we need to educate ourselves on the facts, figures and experiences of people different to ourselves. We need to take the time to learn about different cultures, countries, laws and religions, so when we come up against people who are too quick to spout their racist, bigamist, and homophobic crap, we have all the power and tools we need to prove them wrong.