'All Boys Aren't Blue' Author George M. Johnson's Mom Joins Attendees Speaking Out Against Book Banning Attempt in NJ

Kaye Johnson brought a statement from George M. Johnson, the author of All Boys Aren't Blue, which was one of six titles a group wanted removed from the public library. The Board of Trustees decided that all six titles will remain on the shelves at the Glen Ridge Public Library.

Add Glen Ridge, NJ, to the list of towns across the country facing book banning attempts. In this instance, a group called Citizens Defending Education asked that six books that include LGBTQ topics or themes be removed from the town’s public library.

The six books in question were: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Here and Queer by Rowan Ellis, It’s Not the Stork by Robie H. Harris, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, and You Know, Sex by Cory Silverberg.

After that complaint, last fall, library director Tina Marie Doody reviewed the titles and deemed that they met the library’s materials selection criteria and they would stay. The group, which was made up of eight town residents, appealed, leading to a standing room only Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, February 8.

But unlike meetings seen in other towns and school districts, this one did not feature speaker after speaker talking about the dangers of these titles. Instead, following the attempt to remove the books, members of the community created Glen Ridge United Against Book Bans. The group and students from the town packed the auditorium. Every speaker, including many kids and teens, spoke in support of keeping the books on the shelves. 

One of those in attendance was Kaye Johnson, mother of NJ native George M. Johnson, the author of All Boys Aren’t Blue. Before the meeting began, SLJ asked Kaye Johnson how she is handling so many people across the country protesting her son’s book.

“Live and let live,” she said, gripping an oversized cover of the book. “Who are you to stop anyone from being who they are? Would you rather see children committing suicide? Would you rather have children living a lie?”

As for the crowd of people who came in support of All Boys Aren’t Blue and the other titles, she said, “This is so overwhelming. This is more than I would have ever expected.”

Kaye Johnson brought with her a statement from George, which was read during the public commentary portion of the meeting.

The statement:

“Hello everyone.

If you are hearing this, we have once again reached the unfortunate place of another attempt to ban my memoir, All Boys Arent’ Blue. It’s a sad day when people have decided that the banning of books—that have not killed a single student—is more important than the banning of guns. Books are the truthful experiences of others that build empathy, support, and love. My book is simply my story. It’s the raw truth and sometimes when we tell the truth it can be heavy. But let’s debunk a few lies:

Lie No. 1: My book is not for kids. It is for young adults, age 14 to 18, grades 10 to 12.

Lie No. 2: My book is not pornography. If any time sex is discussed people consider it pornography, the only show that would be on TV is probably Sesame Street. My book details my first sexual experience. Teens need to know about agency, consent, and that they have a right to say no and wait until they are ready. People wonder why the rate of sexual assault and abuse is so high in college and beyond. Look no further than the fact that you remove all texts teaching young adults about it. And before you tell another lie, I talk to teens all year. They are not being taught about it at home either.

The final lie is that my book is introducing hard topics to teenagers and exposing them to them. Any parent trying to ban my book has likely never talked to their teen about what actually goes on in their daily lives. I was a 13-year-old nearly 25 years ago. Do you all remember what the hottest topic was that year? It involved a president and a woman named Monica Lewinsky. Every child, preteen, teenager, and adult in the country was introduced to sex at that moment. That’s the hard truth. Our books are not introducing teens to hard topics; they are simply the resource needed so that they can understand the hard topics that they are living out day-to-day.

Finally, as a Black, queer person, I know what it’s like to see books that don’t tell my story. But in this hunt to protect teens, does it ever cross your mind that removing or restricting this life-saving story for LGBTQ students only harms them more? Or how removing this life-saving story for Black teens harms them?

But you do not care, because that’s really what this fight is over—removing LGBTQ stories and Black stories.

If you don’t want your child to read it, that’s fine. You have every right to not allow your child to read it. But you don’t need to trample on the rights of parents like my mother and my aunt who have raised me.”

After the public commentary and deliberation, which involved trustees speaking about the individual titles and whether they met the materials selection criteria and should stay in the library, the board voted to uphold the library director’s original decision and keep all six titles on the shelves.

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