During the doldrums of the winter season, with outdoor temperatures hovering below the “comfort zone,” the scene above epitomizes the notion of reading for leisure. Sitting in a comfortable chair, bare and relaxed, indoors and immune from the rigors of winter weather with a soothing beverage in one hand and a good book in the other. Why not smile and savor the moment?
At the university where I teach, our winter holiday ended on Monday, January 11, 2021, and a new semester began. As commonly experienced for most, new beginnings are frequently accompanied by the all-time favorites: chaos and confusion. Especially now that the coronavirus COVID-19 is in a major rebound. Such is life!
Returning to work renewed my “need to read” in order to retain my sanity from one day into the next. My first selection was the contemporary memoir, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Matthew Johnson. This book, identified by it’s author as a “memoir-manifesto,” was published April 28, 2020.
I like George M. Johnson’s choice of “memoir-manifesto” as a term of description for his book. “Memoir” lets us all know that it is a factual recounting of his youth (childhood, teenager and young adult) as seen through his eyes and in his thoughts. “Manifesto” informs us that his work “…is an exploration of two of my identities – Black and queer – and how I became aware of their intersections within myself and in society.”
He writes of the antics, challenges and incidents of growing up in a family (immediate and extended) in a community (middle-class USA) in a country struggling to find it’s way towards true equality for all persons (African-American, Asian, Hispanic, White, bisexual, gay, heterosexual, lesbian, transgender and an endless number of belief systems).
The author was born in 1985. This indeed places his developing years within the timeline of US society’s turmoil over conflicting dynamics and issues – many continuing into the present. As he notes throughout his pages, resolving these differences may take an entire lifetime.
Mr. Johnson enlightens and entertains through the recounting of incidents from his early life in New Jersey, USA, and the impact on his development and growth as a same gender loving man of color. Despite the often applied perception of African Americans as being excessively homophobic, he uses his own extended family to discredit this misconception. Through laughter and love, his acceptance and respect from his own family is constant.
As the author matures through his life, the tales expand from his interactions with his numerous cousins to his growing comfort with solitude as he faces the reality that he is different in not only his personality but also in his outlook on life and his worldview. His uniqueness is expanded as he encounters others beyond his extended family and outside his racial community. He retreats into himself even further upon adolescence and subsequent years.
It isn’t until he begins living at university that he discovers the confidence, courage and pride in being himself. This awareness leads him to the truth that sharing his life with others may help them in their journey to becoming who they are.
None of our lives are identical or even vaguely similar. George Matthew Johnson’s book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” gives us examples of his life, with the lessons they installed, in the goal that readers may recognize the unfolding message that their own experiences may harbor some valuable truth.
In the end of his book, Mr. Johnson summarizes the title and explains the meaning. That conclusion is offered to everyone now.
“When I say I am not “blue,” I mean so much more than a color traditionally designated to represent boy. When I say I’m not “blue,” I’m referring to the blue on the police uniform my father wore. How I’ve watched too many times in that same blue harm Black and brown people. I know for myself that although I respect my father with all my heart, it is my duty to fight against how that institution has harmed us.
When I say I’m not blue, I’m referring to the first time I saw the movie “Moonlight” and how my heart raced with the little boy Chiron, who was being chased by the others because he, too, was different.
Most importantly, when I say that I am not blue, I mean that I have no regrets about how this all turned out. Whether this book is a bestseller or a flop, if one person is helped by my story, then it was all worth it.”
Take care and stay bare!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry here is planned for Monday, April 12, 2021, and the proposed topic is “Daffodils.”