IntraSpectrum Counseling
Book Review: For Colored Boys

The Title’s Significance Keith Boykin, author of Beyond the Down Low, conceptualized the anthology For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home in 2010. It was the year that Tyler Clementi’s suicide brought national media attention to the victimization many young gay men endure at the hands of their peers. While Clementi’s plight garnered a strong public response, Boykin noticed that the suicides of young gay men of color like Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Jaheem Herrera, and Raymond Chase received little media attention. Boykin began to think about the discrepancy in representation and response to the plight of young gay men of color, and he wanted to foster more awareness about the treatment of  this group. During this time, Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf had been made into film that depicted what it was like to be a woman of color. The popularity of the film inspired Boykin’s title, and he set to work compiling a literary collection that would reveal the experiences of gay men of color.

The Book’s Content

Boykin assembled essays and poems from African-American, Latino, and Asian-American men that included often taboo topics: sexual abuse, racism, suicide, HIV/AIDS, and homophobia. He was sure to include voices that captured different geographic regions of the United States, various age groups as well as numerous different occupations. By doing so, he compiled a text that strives to be as inclusive as possible while also relaying some common experiences that gay men of color face.  

A Review of “Pride” by James Earl Hardy

Hardy’s poem traces the derogatory names a young gay boy is called throughout his life. For example,  “DIFFERENT is what his Mama called him;” “FAGGOT is what his father called him;” “SISSY is what his older brother called him;” “FUNNY is what his Nana called him.” Through their words, family and friends show their disappointment in him and try to force the unnamed child to conform. In this way, Hardy depicts how these words influenced the boy’s self-esteem and shaped his identity, to the point that he marries a woman:

“STRAIGHT

is what City Hall called him

And he knew it would please everyone

except himself”

However, Hardy does not the end the poem there. He has the boy grow, mature, and come into his own. In this way, Hardy effectively conveys the triumph a man has when he is able to accept his sexual identity despite the obstacles and struggles presented to him by a homophobic society. The poem concludes:

“It ain’t about a name

He always looked into the eyes of others

to define who he is

But now he looks in a mirror

and the beauty of his own dark brown eyes

He’s not on the outside looking in

He looked inside—himself—and found it

And PRIDE

is what he called it”

Summation

The range of the book’s topics are sure to evoke feelings of sadness and happiness, despair and hope, alienation and camaraderie. Some of the sections include “Growing Pains,” The Family that Preys,” “I’m Coming Out,” “For Colored Boys,” “When the Rainbow is not Enough,” In Sickness and Health,” and “Power to the People.” Boykin did a superb job crafting a text that represents the nuances of gay life for men of color.

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Robin

For the past twelve years, Robin Petrovic has been teaching English Composition, Literature, and Gender & Women Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she infuses Queer Theory into all of her courses. In 2011, Petrovic co-founded Gay4Good: Chicago, an inclusive LGBT volunteer organization that donates its time to social welfare and environmental service projects. As the literature blogger for IntraSpectrum Counseling, she reviews a variety of LGBTQ texts, so readers can easily find materials that match their interests and needs.

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