Penguin Books acquires 'life-affirming' memoir about growing up Black and queer

Penguin Books acquires 'life-affirming' memoir about growing up Black and queer

PRH Children's imprint Penguin Books has acquired All Boys Aren’t Blue, a series of personal essays exploring childhood, adolescence and college years growing up under the duality of being Black and queer by New York-based writer and activist George M Johnson.

Carmen McCullough, editorial director at Penguin Random House Children’s, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Kristin Dulaney, executive director of subsidiary rights at Macmillan US, who published the debut in April 2020. All Boys Aren’t Blue is due to be released in paperback, e-book and audiobook in March 2021.

The essays will "wrestle with triumph and tragedy" and cover topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalisation, consent, and Black joy. Johnson will share memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at the age of five, to their loving relationship with their grandmother, to their first sexual relationship. 

McCullough said: "All Boys Aren't Blue is a beautiful revelation of a book. George's engaging, life-affirming and powerful memoir brilliantly explores their experience of being Black and queer. I'm delighted that we are able to shine a light on a subject that is rarely represented in UK publishing and to introduce you to an immersive new talent in YA. This is a book that celebrates the ways in which the everyday can be extraordinary and will change the way you look at the world." 

Johnson commented: "The inspiration behind this book was not wanting another young Black queer kid to have to go through the same things that I went through. I grew up not seeing stories about myself and not seeing myself represented on television or in my daily life. When you don’t see those things you tend to navigate spaces with no direction. Making many errors along the way that could have otherwise been prevented.

"Black queer people have always existed but have not been properly allowed to tell their stories. I wanted people to know our story and its totality. I also think it is important for those who are heterosexual that live with and around us to know how they play a role in our oppression and fully understand that it is on them to end systems that harm us while creating a safe space for us to operate in society as they do.

"For the UK audience, I hope they see how racism, anti-Blackness and homophobia are globally indoctrinated into our ways of life. That although these 'isms' and phobias may 'look different' depending on where you live, they all still work together to uphold the entire oppressive system.

"I also want the Black queer community in the UK see how connected our stories are. There is much commonality amongst the Black queer experience, but also in our differences there is much potential for learning and understanding."

Johnson has written on race, gender, sex, and culture for publications such as Essence, the Advocate, BuzzFeed News, Teen Vogue

Picture credit: Sean Howard