How the Boogeyman Became a Poet

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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.

I’m terrified that the Boogeyman is gonna hear

what I’ve been thinking about certain boys

and what happens to my heartbeat when I’m around some of them.

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 occasional 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?

Tony Keith Jr. is a Black American gay poet, spoken word artist, and hip-hop educational leader from Washington, DC. He is author of the YA memoir in verse How the Boogeyman Became a Poet. Tony’s writings have appeared in the International Journal of Critical Media Literacy, the Journal of Black Masculinity, and many others. A multiyear Fellow of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities with a PhD in education from George Mason University, Tony is CEO of Ed Emcee Academy and lives with his husband, Harry Christian III, in his DC hometown.

 "Daring. Bold. Liberating. A recanting of a story that took a world of courage to live, becoming crystallized in all its Black boy glory now that we get to behold it. Tony Keith’s How the Boogeyman Became A Poet is a coming of age story so many of us have searched for and are lucky to find." -Candice Iloh, author of Every Body Looking, a National Book Award finalist

“Searing honesty and deft wordplay create a vivid impression of this enormously talented and multifaceted writer and performer. Teens will relate to Keith's story and celebrate his conquering of the Boogeyman: his own doubts and fears.” -Booklist (starred review)

“Keith offers a vulnerability within these pages that’s reminiscent of George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue (2020) and Candice Iloh’s Every Body Looking (2020) and will especially speak to young people who are dealing with similar educational, familial, and interpersonal pressures. An emotionally honest and self-reflective debut.” -Kirkus Reviews

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