By: George M. Johnson
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This memoir is a delve into Johnson's childhood, teen years, and college years as he struggles with learning his identity as a Black queer man, growing up in the 90s and early 2000s. It is both strong and raw, unflinchingly honest and moving, and it is the type of book that teens need to be able to read because it is the book might help them to see that life has a way of working itself out--even when it feels that the world is stack up against you.
Johnson takes into his tight knit family, telling stories of his Nanny, his parents, brothers, cousins, and additional extended family welcome and embrace his identity, never making him feel out of place or less than a person. If we could all have a family like his, the world be a much better place. Johnson does not take his family for granted and often points to statistics about the steep uphill battle queer teens face, especially transgender teens (though Johnson is not transgender he does have a cousin that is).
He takes us through his romantic relationships and his line relationship with his fraternity brothers. He discusses with frankness navigating what it is like being black, queer, and how both make up his identity and how often times each will not accept the other identity--while both are equally important to Johnson's identity. With the same frankness, he delves into the need for better and equal education into queer relationships and sex education in schools and how we are doing a disservice to our students by not allowing or discussing healthy queer relationships. Our queer students deserve this as much as our hetero normative students do and until we normalize these conversations, we cannot show that we openly support our students.
This book will make some adults uncomfortable without a doubt but as George Johnson shows--it is life, it is what our students are living and breathing. As he states in the Afterward, "there were no roadmaps or guidelines for the journey" and that is why this book is so vitally important for libraries to put in their collections--for students such as George to find in their collections to find the hope and to learn how to grow, learn, and most importantly, to thrive.
Note: I elected to experience this book via the audiobook. This book is narrated by the author himself, which I am glad this decision was done. This is a deeply personal story and I appreciate his willingness for putting himself out there doing it. However, I am not electing to review the audiobook format itself, but the book overall.