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How the Boogeyman Became a Poet (Hardcover)

How the Boogeyman Became a Poet By Tony Keith, Jr. Cover Image
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March/April 2024 Kids Indie Next List

“This affirming memoir in verse walks the reader through the beautiful journey of being honest with yourself and fostering community. This book is for anyone trying to put the puzzle pieces of life together, but feel like they are missing just one piece.”
— Maryan Liban, Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, Columbus, OH


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?

About the Author

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. Visit him at 

Praise For…

"In this debut, Keith has penned not just a memoir, but also a blazing proclamation of existence for any child that feels like a mere figment of the world’s imagination. Yes, readers will complete this experience believing they have more skin on their bones, more air in their lungs, and hearts beating new rhythms, in new meters, all their own. What a life-affirming masterpiece." — Jason Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"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

“Candid, sweet and written in paragraphs constantly melting into stanzas, Boogeyman is a vibrant story about a boy coming out and discovering his voice. High school kids: Get a copy before it’s banned.” — Ron Charles, Washington Post Book Club

“Keith’s love of poetry and language—and the power of wielding both—radiates from the pages. . . . Teens will find solace in his survival and flourishing as well as obtaining a glimpse of a fascinating time gone by.” — BookPage

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063296008
ISBN-10: 0063296004
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English