How the Boogeyman Became a Poet

How the Boogeyman Became a Poet
Age Range
Release Date
February 06, 2024
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Poet, writer, and hip-hop educator Tony Keith Jr. makes his debut with a powerful YA memoir in verse, tracing his journey from being a closeted gay Black teen battling poverty, racism, and homophobia to becoming an openly gay first-generation college student who finds freedom in poetry. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, George M. Johnson, and Jacqueline Woodson.
Tony dreams about life after high school, where his poetic voice can find freedom on the stage and page. But the Boogeyman has been following Tony since he was six years old. First, the Boogeyman was after his Blackness, but Tony has learned It knows more than that: Tony wants to be the first in his family to attend college, but there’s no path to follow. He also has feelings for boys, desires that don’t align with the script he thinks is set for him and his girlfriend, Blu.

Despite a supportive network of family and friends, Tony doesn’t breathe a word to anyone about his feelings. As he grapples with his sexuality and moves from high school to college, he struggles with loneliness while finding solace in gay chat rooms and writing poetry. But how do you find your poetic voice when you are hiding the most important parts of yourself? And how do you escape the Boogeyman when it's lurking inside you?

Editor review

1 review
A intriguing memoir about Blackness and Queerness
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How the Boogeyman Became a Poet is a memoir that is told in verse. Tony tells his story from being a closeted Gay Black male in High School to becoming an openly Gay first-generation college student. Tony takes you through the struggles he battles with who he refers to as the boogeyman, as he is after his Blackness, but then it is after much more than that as Tony learns more about himself. He keeps his feelings to himself and doesn’t share them with anyone outside of a chat room he stumbles across online. Tony struggles with loneliness as he keeps his sexuality a secret from the supportive community around him, only finding peace within the online chat room and his poetry. 

What I loved: 

This was a book that caught my attention right from the start and I appreciated the way the author caught our attention. I loved that the author started this book with a letter to the reader about what this book means to him. This letter to the reader told me what I was about to be reading and how the author explained why he wrote the book. I appreciate that the author points out the need for books written by Black individuals and how important the intersection of his Blackness and Queerness is for this book. 

Something that stood out to me throughout this book was the images that the author included with some of the poems. I appreciated how there were images to make certain pieces stand out more and that there were some poems that had written-out copies included as well. In addition to the images that were included, I also really enjoyed the images that the author created for us through his poems. 

I loved that this memoir was told in verse because it felt like I was listening to this author share stories about his life. I appreciated how the author managed to add dialog throughout the book so you got to read some of his experiences with others. I liked the way each poem had a different structure and depending on the layout of the poem and structure, they read differently. 

Something else I liked about this book was how the poem titles were part of the poem. I thought it was interesting to see how the title both told you what you were about to read and also began the story. 

Final Verdict: How the Boogeyman Became a Poet is an intriguing memoir written in verse that young adults will enjoy. This is a memoir that will speak to Black Queer youth who may be struggling with their social identities and how to make sense of the intersection of Blackness and Queerness. This is a book I believe would make a great audiobook as these books feel like spoken word poetry and would have a stronger effect when read aloud. 
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