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Ain't Never Not Been Black

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  85 reviews
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 American ...more
Paperback, 99 pages
Published November 3rd 2020 by Button Poetry (first published October 13th 2020)
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Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to #Netgalley for making this book available to me.
To me 'poetry' is synonymous with 'truth', a poet relinquishes his or her truth to the lines they write. Javon Johnson has done a perfect job of capturing his truth, the life he has lived in a black body since he was young. the way he is perceived and in turn the way he assumes responsibility for various events that have occurred in his life.
I really enjoyed this collection and one that really stood out to me was "ON HEALTHY MASCULINITY"
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poetry is nearly impossible for me to review. This collection of poetry is real and heart wrenching. The author speaks of his own experiences and there is a lot of insight in what it means to be a Black man in the world. It is definitely vital to read this for those who are interested in Black voices and poetry.

Thanks so much to Netgalley for sending me an arc!
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"(...)and isn't that what being Black is all about / how the world works to reduce you / even if you only want freedom"

I'm pretty selective with the poetry I read but the title caught my attention and I'm glad I decided to download it because, from the moment I finished the first poems, I knew I was going to love this poetry collection. And I wasn't wrong. It was so good.

Ain't never not been black talks about what it's like to be black in America (the US) and it was heartbreaking and exh
Misse Jones
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found Javon Johnson’s, “Ain’t Never Not Been Black” to be a riveting, impactful, relevant, and engaging collection of poetry that resonated with me on so many levels. Given the current social and political climate in this country so many of the poems heavily hit home. It was as much a collection about the Black experience in America as it was an ode and a call for social justice and peace. He was not by any means shy to talk about the sensitive subjects and that is ultimately why I was so enga ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poetry has always moved me but button poetry...
The words in Ain't Never Not Been Black were so powerful and I really took my time taking in each and every word. Reading these topics as a white woman was super insightful and something that everybody should read.
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received an advanced reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley.

I don't know where to begin. This is such an important book. It shows the struggles of Black people in the past and nowadays. No one should live in fear just because of their skin colour. My eyes teared up while I was reading some of the poems; although it is extremely sad, this is a powerful book I believe everyone should read. Rating: 5/5 stars.
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, favorites
Ain't Never Not Been Black is a new favorite of mine, maybe even my favorite poetry collection of the year. I only wish it were longer! The poems within are necessary and hard-hitting, addressing issues including racism, masculinity, police brutality, gentrification, and more. Johnson's words are resonant, passionate, and raw, drawing upon his lived experiences to give insight into what it is like to be Black in America. As a non-Black POC, I can never fully comprehend what it's like (particular ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
This was a very insightful read. It was very short and easy to get through, but at the same it's very educational. I think this is an important book that a lot of people should read to have an insight and the lives of POC. This book teaches a lot about racism, and I think that's very important.
There are some short poems, but also longer 'essays' but I think there's a nice interplay between them.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
ain’t never not been black is magical. a lot of the poems sneak up on you as you read along, looking for the “moment” of connection and then it hits you out of nowhere and you are in awe; stunned. BLACK 201 is one of my favorites from this collection because i am a fan of poets who take an unconventional form and place a poem inside of it. a course syllabus on being Black? it seems too strange, but its execution is brilliant.

BLACK AND HAPPY is another poem that will stay with me for a long time.
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books of poetry I have read in some time. I will be purchasing a copy!
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review!

There is nothing I can say about this book that hasn't already been said by other reviewers but I will try. Ain't Never Not Been Black is a powerful, beautifully written poetry collection about Black pain, Black joy, and the magic and endurance of Black people. The collection is short but has a lot of heart in it. I can't say that I got through it quickly (compared to other books of the same size) because I really ha
Louise (Louus_library)
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Now this is the first-time poetry is being featured on this page and I’m glad it is this one. The only reason its down a star is because I wanted it to be longer (literally shocked that I’m saying this about poetry). This certainly gave me a new perspective that other nonfiction books have not. Each poem gives a powerful and heart-breaking insight into black life in America. I read this in one sitting, as its very short but enjoyed it a lot.

I have no idea how to review poetry but Johnson talks
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, heart-wrenching work by poet Javon Johnson, who allows us through his poetry the perspective of a black man, full of the want, the need for a fulfilled, joyous, FREE life but also the hurt, the anger and the fear of a black man living in today's world. It tells the story of communal and individualistic suffering, of the ugly face of racism, of the growing up of a boy, a black boy and the developement of a man, a black man. This little book comes exactly at the right time where non-bla ...more
Manon (bookswithonno)
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Even though this collection was rather short, it was such a moving and powerful poetry collection. The author speaks of personal experiences regarding racism and black-identity. It was an educational and insightful read for me and I certainly believe more people should read it too. It won't take up much of your time but what you take away from it is very valuable. Important topics like this can't be discussed enough in my opinion. Not until we can say that racism is not present in the world anym ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-challenge
I received this book for free from NetGalley In exchange for an honest review.

“Ain’t Never Not Been Black” is a collection of poems written by Javon Johnson.

It’s a poetry collection about being black in America and all the heartbreaks, joy, anger, and love encapsulated in the experience.

Often times with poetry it can be difficult to keep my eyes focused on the page, I frequently find myself drifting off or skipping around, but that wasn’t the case here.

This little collection kept me engaged -
5 stars. This collection of poems soars. By page 10, I knew this collection was exquisite—I was completely enamored by the writing and creativity the whole way through. The allegorical constructions and metaphorical language employed in this are exquisite and innovative. "The Last Conversation Between Malcolm X and His Daughter," "A Lesson in Proper Sentence Construction," and "Everything I Know About Gentrification I Learned From My Step/Father, Or When The Cancer Comes" are phenomenal. ...more
Kayla Irvin
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am not that big on poetry, but this definitely kept my interest. It opened my eyes on how the world can be viewed differently depending on the person.
Eram Hussain
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, netgalley
"The best way to understand me is
to have my mother's cooking,
too much spice for most people
to stomach, but I like it that way."

"Not too famous though.
Don't want to be a hashtag.
No twitter coffins."
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A theme of survival resonates throughout the poems published in this book. Ain't Never Not Been Black chronicles the life of the black man in America. It has been difficult to put my thoughts on this book into words: intense, serious, honest; Still at times, Johnson communicates his story so beautifully, that the gravity of these poems almost eludes me. From Malcom X to Jean-Michel Basquiat, these poems show how America's (mal)treatment of the black man has transcended generations. Eloquently wr ...more
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ain’t never not been black by Javon Johnson

I was provided with a review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my unbiased review.

I had not read any works by Johnson prior to this book and that is something that I am going to rectify shortly.

This collection was short in page length, but long in effort and consideration. I feel like poetry has this public perception that because there are not as many pages, it’s less effort? I would argue that Johnson in his ability to finetune and fin
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, 2020, poetry
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?
Amber Thompson
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In minimal words, Javon Johnson manages to convey the complexities and emotions of existing as a person of colour. More than once, I was moved to tears, or left to linger over the words on the page as the over all weight of his poems left me thinking and digesting. Mr. Johnson allows a glimpse into the struggles faced in everyday life as a black person in today's world, of the bias and disadvantages levelled against them.
My partner is a person of colour, and through her eyes I've been able to
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
One day I was with a friend waiting outside of our kids music class in a neighborhood that was being threatened by developers and their grand ideas on how it could be "better". There was some aggressive writing on the brick exterior of the building that suggested that white people should get out and take their ideas with them. My friend asked, "What is wrong with gentrification? Isn't it good for everyone when property values go up?" I pointed at the 40 year old run-down tienda on the corner and ...more
Alana Wilson
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Opposite of the author, I "aint" never been black. I was intrigued by and drawn to the book by the title. "Ain't Never Not Been Black" is not how I speak. It took me a couple of glances to read it correctly in my mind. I didn't know what to expect to find on the pages inside

I was gripped by the truth and the art written in these pages. I read each poem once, twice, and then again to my husband or my child to discuss the real life implications of his words. I am a better for recognizing the truth
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, arc
thank you to @buttonpoetry & @netgalley for this e-arc!

Ain’t Never Not Been Black is a poetry collection surrounding Black pain, Black pleasure and Black love, by describing experiences from the author’s personal life as well as social issues that hit the African-American community more generally.

this. was. phenomenal. reading this poetry collection was such a visceral experience. the author uses language so beautifully, yet in a way that makes the themes (especially those poems surrounding Blac
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
If you do not like the ‘N word’ being used then I wouldn’t advise reading this. We need to realise that while for some in the black community it is incredibly offensive, for others, they use the word amongst their community almost as a big ‘f you’ to their past by using it I guess an empowering way. That does not mean that white people should use the word EVER. I believe that this is a really powerful and important collection of poetry that everyone should read.

This book captures the challenges
Jan 07, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My goal this year is to read more poetry, because I am so unfamiliar with it, and I'm one of those people who sheepishly says does not "understand" poetry - although I think it's more about feeling it, though?
I mean... Excerpt from "On Healthy Masculinity":

..."They say dandelions, though commonly disregarded
as a weed, are completely edible sources of vitamins,
and one cup can produce 7 to 13,000 units of vitamin A.
And this teaches me that even
unwanted things can be useful, too.
Someday I want to
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received and read an ebook copy of this poetry collection from NetGalley for an honest review.

This poetry collection is a short but powerful examination of all the ways in which America has stolen freedom from Black folx. Javon Johnson critiques America’s violence against Black people from kidnapping and forcing Black enslavement to villainizing and murdering Black leaders of the Civil Rights Movement to whitewashing Black communities to criminalizing Black childhood.

Johnson writes in many dif
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Javon Johnson writes with truth, pain, hope, resilience, and love. He does an excellent job at capturing what it means to live in a black body in the US, but I feel that POC will relate to these poems even outside the US. Johnson touches on very important matters and events. While colonialism and slavery are known as “events” this is completely false because it is an ongoing cycle. These so-called events continue to impact Black people in the USA, Canada, and all over the world.

It is difficult t
Meg [franklybookish]
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4.5 stars
Ain't Never Not Been Black was a relevant and moving poetry collection offered up from Johnson to readers as a raw, emotional, direct, and own-voice experience of Black life, identity, and the deep-rooted impact of racism in America on Black bodies. This collection of poems was insightful and read like a memory skipping memoir of events and experiences that begged to be shared with the world and are likely, not isolated. I appreciated how Johnson did not shy away from difficult or sensi
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