Meet the author of the young adult novel All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. George shares more about their inspiration for this book, their most memorable teachers and librarians, their favorite childhood books, and more!
When describing All Boys Aren’t Blue, what’s your elevator pitch?
George M. Johnson: All Boys Aren’t Blue is a Black Queer young adult memoir, detailing my life from birth until age 21. It discusses the joys, pains, trauma and triumphs of a young Black boy living at the intersection of his Blackness and sexual identity. It’s a story of discovery, family, love and young adult boy who is trying his best to survive a world not yet ready for people like him.
What inspired you to write All Boys Aren’t Blue?
George: I wanted to finally tell my story. I’ve been a writer for many years now and I’ve told my story in bits in pieces but I knew it was time to finally tell the whole truth. The stakes have always been high and unfortunately, many youth don’t get to hear about Black queer stories until they are adults. I didn’t learn I had queer heroes and possibility models until I was an adult. I didn’t want another generation of kids to not have someone they could see & hear. It’s been amazing getting the feedback from so many saying this is the first time they felt they have heard their story being told. It lets me know that I need to keep telling our story in every way.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
George: My college professor Ms. Murray. I met her in 2003 and still have the best conversations with her about life, spirituality and the work that I’m doing. She really pushed for us to be great. To fight against oppression and systems that harm us. She pushed for me personally to never stop pursuing my dreams and helping others. She always encouraged reading and writing and public speaking. Three things I really took to heart and still do to this day.
Is there a book that you wish you wrote?
George: Honestly no. There might be ideas I wish I explored first but I’m not one to covet what someone else did. As someone who truly believes in the universe and how things manifest I know what I write I was meant to write, and what I read from others I was meant to read and then process.
What is the first step in your creative process?
George: To do a brain dump. I just write what is on my mind even if the thoughts aren’t fully clear or well put together. To get it out of my mind and on a page somewhere. I have thoughts all day. Thoughts in my dreams. So I keep a notepad near me so that I can write stuff down whenever I need to or in my notes app. Getting it down is the first step for me..
What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
George: Deadtime Stories: Invasion of the Appleheads. The series was so great and imaginative. I used to sneak and stay up until midnight reading them with my reading light on my top bunk bed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
George M. Johnson is a writer and activist based in New York. They have written on race, gender, sex, and culture for Essence, the Advocate, BuzzFeed News, Teen Vogue, and more than forty other national publications. George has appeared on BuzzFeed’s AM2DM as well as on MSNBC. All Boys Aren’t Blue is their debut, and was an Amazon Best Book of the Year, an Indie Bestseller, a People Magazine Best Book of the Year, and optioned for television by Gabrielle Union. The New York Times called it “an exuberant, unapologetic memoir infused with a deep but cleareyed love for its subjects.” At the time of publication, George used he/him pronouns. Speak with them on Twitter: @IamGMJohnson. iamgmjohnson.com
ABOUT THE BOOK:
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Praise for All Boys Aren’t Blue:
“An exuberant, unapologetic memoir infused with a deep but cleareyed love for its subjects.” —The New York Times
★”This title opens new doors, as the author insists that we don’t have to anchor stories such as his to tragic ends: ‘Many of us are still here. Still living and waiting for our stories to be told—to tell them ourselves.’ A critical, captivating, merciful mirror for growing up black and queer today.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“An absolute necessity . . . the personal stories and the healing and reconciliation of self in this title are all undeniably honest and relatable—a reminder of our shared imperfection and humanity.” —Booklist
“The conversational tone will leave readers feeling like they are sitting with an insightful friend . . . This young adult memoir is a contemporary hallmark of the blossoming genre. Johnson anchors the text with encouragement and realistic guidance for queer Black youth.” —School Library Journal
“Johnson’s debut is a collection of heartfelt personal essays revolving around themes of identity and family . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly