INDEX ON CENSORSHIP | VOL.51 | NO.3
U p Front
MY TRUTH SHOULD NOT BE BANNED
The bestselling US author GEORGE M. JOHNSON also holds the title of one of the US’s most banned writers. Here they talk about keeping going
INSPIRATION COMES IN many forms. When people ask me “what is your inspiration” it is likely different based on the day and time and state of mind that I am in at the time. I’ve been inspired by people in life like my grandmother “Nanny”, high school students I’ve met, to something as simple as a ladybug on the wall. That’s the beautiful thing about inspiration though. It happens when you least expect it, but it always seems to come at the time you most need it.
When I wrote my debut memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue, it was inspired by the death of a young queer teen. Simultaneously, it was inspired by the younger versions of me that I thought had died, but were very much alive in me waiting for their chance to speak. So the stories in that book weren’t really from the 33-year-old me writing it. It was the 5-year-old me who knew he was different, but didn’t know how to say it. And the 10-year-old me, and 15-year-old me, and even 20-year-old me who finally had those words to tell their truth. So that’s what I did.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know that me telling my truth would cause so many to be inspired to ban it. Inspire so much hatred that it be removed from the teens who need it most. But then two things happened. Their hatred inspired me to write even more stories, and be even more vocal about the story of the Black queer experience in the USA. And I watched the youth be inspired to say their truth. Find agency to fight for their rights to the materials and in many cases win and get the books back in their schools.
The youth keep me going. When I get messages and emails from teens and young adults across the country and the world about how my words are not only
ABOVE: The author George M. Johnson, whose memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue was named the third most banned book in 2021 in the USA
helping them understand themselves but helping them heal it inspires me to keep doing the work. I once used to be that teen who had no resources about the struggles of my identity and sexuality. About the struggles of racism I was feeling when I was in high school. It is because of that I will continue to use the words to ensure that the future generations never have to feel the way I felt. May they too be inspired to tell their stories.
George M. Johnson is the bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue
Free expression in peril in the Middle East and North Africa
Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, writes about his organisation’s recent campaigns
Free expression in the MENA region is under ongoing attack. Governments are using several means to imprison activists, including politicised judiciaries, terrorism and cybercrime laws as well as campaigns against them in state media.
In Saudi Arabia, Yemeni journalist Ali Mohsen Ahmed
Abu Lahoum is still awaiting the decision on a request for reconsideration against the Court of Appeal’s verdict upholding a 15-year prison sentence for his peaceful online activities. His family was recently prevented from visiting him in prison.
In the UAE, the authorities have again refused to release 40
prisoners of conscience despite the expiration of their sentences. Many are part of a group known collectively as the UAE94, who were arrested in 2012 and sentenced during an unfair trial for their pro-democracy activities.
In Iraq, public freedoms are at risk amid a political crisis in the country. Human rights defenders are constantly exposed to attacks and assassinations.
In Egypt, large numbers of human rights defenders are in prison. Some rights organisations have closed their doors due to repression, including one of the oldest in the region, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
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