Book thoughts

Connections through stories of suffering

Someone on #bookstagram told me that All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is a YA memoir and I’m shook. I used to care about designations like YA, but as I get older, that label means nothing to me. I may read some books intended for children and young adults, but adults usually write these stories and there is something in there for us too.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is the embodiment of “write the book you need to read if it hasn’t been written yet” (this is a very bad loose translation of the famous quote). I have yet to read a book about a queer black boy on the journey of reclaiming his joy in a world that can be destructive to queer black boys.

This book was designed for young queer black people, but it was also for me. I am also on a journey of figuring out my identity and what feels comfortable to me, but George’s stories were more than that for me: it was a powerful lesson in the magic of storytelling.

To me, outside of growing up queer and black, George’s life wasn’t that fascinating, nothing really stood out of the ordinary to make a grand story for the ages. What was captivating about George’s life and storytelling, is his ability to take those stories that could have happened in anyone’s life and connect them to a universal human experience.

“Oddly enough, many of us connect through trauma and pain, finding broken people in hopes of fixing one another.”

I fell in love with this book (and most memoirs) because I found connection in him sharing his trauma. Humans are so funny in how much connection they need in order to avoid feeling loneliness. I feel a little bit more myself when I can connect to people and feel like I am not the only one suffering in life.

Misery truly does love company.

If this book has taught me anything, it would be that everyone has a story worth telling. You never know who’s lives you may touch when you share your pain with the world. Through that releasing of the pain, you can begin to heal and can potential help someone do a bit of healing.

I’m not sure why sharing pain is more powerful than sharing triumph. Maybe humans are spiteful and they would rather hear other people are suffering as they are over feeling like they can never live up to other’s potential. But sometimes it is inspiring to know that it is possible to bring yourself out from the depths of your circumstances.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is both a consolation that you aren’t alone in your suffering, and also a reminder that suffering, like all things, are not permanent.

Thank you, George, for having the courage to write all your trauma, insecurities, and taking off the mask you use to protect yourself from a world destined to take your smile. Thank you for providing this gateway, not only for LGBTQIA+ young people, but all of us to be brave and share our own stories.

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