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Ain't Never Not Been Black foregrounds Black pleasure Black pain and Black love in unflinchingly Black ways.
Engaging with themes of masculinity, racism, love, and joy, Johnson is at once critical and creative. His spoken word performance transfers effortlessly to the page, with poems that will encompass you.
This is a book about blackness and survival, and how in America these are inseparable. In a world of individualism, who can you hold close? In a world of danger, what makes you feel safe?
From a poem written in the form of a syllabus, to another about the time his grandmother literally saved his life, Johnson's creative expression is constantly enacting the feminist mantra, “the personal is political."
"Every so often, there is a piece of literature that arrives and encapsulates the black experience in a way that gives the reader a new and vibrant perspective of the culture. Ain’t Never Not Been Black is the aforementioned. Javon Johnson is one of the most brilliant writers in the world and this collection of poems is proof of that claim. Johnson takes us on a journey and each poem serves as a guide to understanding black life in America. The overall narrative arc reminds the reader how multifaceted blackness is and the author challenges us to embrace it all. Ain’t Never Not Been Black is personal, political, insightful and deserves to have a space on everyone’s bookshelf."
– Rudy Francisco, author of Helium
"Javon Johnson’s collection of poetry Ain’t Never Not Been Black is a breathtaking work of grief, heartbreak, joy, survival, and love. He writes about America and Los Angeles the way that one can only write about someone they have loved and has repeatedly disappointed them. He contrasts this with the celebration of his grandmother, mother, boys, nephew, a young woman teaching him to move. Many times I realized I had turned a few pages without breathing, only to gasp over an incredibly tender stanza. Once I finished reading, I wanted to weep and clap at the same time. I wanted to thank Javon for never being anything but black."
– Yesika Salgado author of Corazón
"Ain’t Never Not Been Black is part manifesto, part anthem, part testimony, and undeniably one hundred percent black boy joy. Johnson’s poems are a healing salve, a sonic ointment that soothes the wounds of white supremacy and daily pricks of antiblack racism, reminding us of the beautiful bounty that blackness always has been and always will be."
– E. Patrick Johnson, author of Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women