A thank you letter to George M. Johnson for writing All Boys Aren’t Blue

Dear George,

I realize I’m a bit grown to be writing a thank you letter for a young adult book, but I just had to say how happy I am that I read All Boys Aren’t Blue. I’m looking at the back cover of the hardback now, a cover stamped with the phrase “Be Bold and Brave and Queer.” It is a fitting ending. When I got to the end of the book, I felt like I could do anything. I don’t often feel like that at the end of a book, even books that inspire me. A lot of people’s life stories read more like screenplays to me. I admire and appreciate the stories, but I can’t always relate to them. When I read your book, I felt like I was with you, even though our journeys were different. I love that you chose to write your story while you are still young rather than waiting for some unpromised time in the future. I love that you wrote it like you were just sitting down and having a conversation, not trying to impress anyone, just telling your story as you lived it.

So much in this book moved my heart, such as the story about the cowboy boots your Nanny bought you as a child. When you say those boots “spoke to the boy and the girl” in me, you really painted a powerful image. I wonder how many people can even envision Black kids wearing cowboy boots or anything “country” or whimsical like that. What gets portrayed of Black childhood in the popular media and elsewhere is so limited and often tragic. Your life with your family – your Nanny, your parents, your cousins – challenges that portrayal. No doubt, homophobia in the Black community is real, but it is not the whole of the Black queer experience. Your friendship with your Nanny was such a beautiful thing to read about. I’ll admit, I was not that tight with my Grandma’s, so I can only imagine what that must have been like. I love how your Nanny kept you close and kept you from being alone and how you looked out for her when she was sick.

There were stories in this book that I did not expect, that turned out to be my favorite parts. I didn’t think you’d be writing so much about your school experiences, for example, and the racism you experienced as a young student. Good for you for standing up to that teacher who said “slavery was a thing of its time.” I get so tired of people making excuses for White slaveholders’ actions. At the same time, it irks me that you had to even stand up to that teacher in the first place. I mean, damn, your generation is younger than mine. There is still so much work to do.

I also did not expect to read that you had joined a fraternity in college. Greek life is something that was not a part of my college experience, so I learned A LOT during this part of the book. It really upsets me that you were called a gay slur by a fraternity “brother.” But you made it through your initiation, and you prevailed. I wish I could have seen you in that step show!

You did a lot of things in this book that I respected. What most impressed me is that you did not shy away at all from the hard questions. I greatly admire the honesty and transparency you brought to the sexuality discussion. You have likely saved many lives just with that one section. Maybe one day, queer kids will get a proper sex education in school.

Well, George, there is really nothing left for me to say in response to your book and your story except this: “Amen.” I’m not a religious person, but that word just fits here. You truly “brought it” with this book, and you should be proud.

Many, many thanks,

Stacy

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.

Listen: George M. Johnson talks All Boys Aren’t Blue (interview)

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