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Biography & Autobiography African American & Black

Black Boys Like Me

Confrontations with Race, Identity, and Belonging

by (author) Matthew R. Morris

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2024
African American & Black, Civil Rights, Discrimination & Race Relations
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2024
    List Price

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Black Boys Like Me ignited parts of me I honestly didn't believe any book could ever know. . . . Seldom do incredibly titled books earn their titles. Matthew R. Morris earns this classic title with a classic book about our insides.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Startlingly honest, bracing personal essays from a perceptive educator that bring us into the world of Black masculinity, hip-hop culture, and learning.

This is an examination of the parts that construct my Black character; from how public schooling shapes our ideas about ourselves to how hip-hop and sports are simultaneously the conduit for both Black abundance and Black boundaries. This book is a meditation on the influences that have shaped Black boys like me.

What does it mean to be a young Black man with an immigrant father and a white mother, teaching in a school system that historically has held an exclusionary definition of success?

In eight illuminating essays, Matthew R. Morris grapples with this question, and others related to identity and perception. After graduating high school in Scarborough, Morris spent four years in the U.S. on multiple football scholarships and, having spent that time in the States experiencing “the Mecca of hip hop and Black culture,” returned home with a newfound perspective.

Now an elementary school teacher himself in Toronto, Morris explores the tension between his consumption of Black culture as a child, his teenage performances of the ideas and values of the culture that often betrayed his identity, and the ways society and the people guiding him—his parents, coaches, and teachers—received those performances. What emerges is a painful journey toward transcending performance altogether, toward true knowledge of the self.

With the wide-reaching scope of Desmond Cole’s The Skin We’re In and the introspective snapshot of life in Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Boys Like Me is an unflinching debut that invites readers to create braver spaces and engage in crucial conversations around race and belonging.

About the author

Contributor Notes

MATTHEW R. MORRIS is an educator, anti-racism advocate, and writer based out of Toronto. He earned a BA (Hons) and an MA in Social Justice Education from the University of Toronto. In addition to teaching, his work and public speaking on the deconstruction of Black masculinity, hip-hop culture, and schooling has taken him across North America to consult on and learn about the challenges facing students and educators in the current education system. He has written articles for TVO, Huffington Post, ETFO Voice, and Education Canada magazine. Morris is a TEDx speaker and has been featured in Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, and on CBC Radio and CityNews Toronto.

Editorial Reviews

One of:
CBC's “19 Canadian books to check out during Black History Month 2024”
Zoomer’s 8 Books For Black History Month
Praise for Black Boys Like Me:

“[A] fascinating look into the inspiration, motivation, challenges and reflections of a teacher . . . really powerful.”
—Amanda Parris, CBC
“A buzzy debut.”
Black Boys Like Me ignited parts of me I honestly didn't believe any book could ever know. The language, and all its frequencies, pulses and settles in ways reminiscent of the first time I read bell hooks. Seldom do incredibly titled books earn their titles. Matthew R. Morris earns this classic title with a classic book about our insides.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

“In visceral and compelling prose, Morris illuminates the myriad layers of racial identity and the tenacity of internalized racism. Gorgeously written, Black Boys Like Me is a must-read for understanding both the big and little Rs of racism and how it implicates all of us in different ways, relative to our positions within it.”
—Dr. Robin DiAngelo, New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility and Nice Racism

Black Boys Like Me is a wonder. It manages to evoke the realness of growing up Black and male in Toronto while stoking a profound discussion of the ways in which we Black boys ‘perform’ our Blackness to navigate an often hostile society. It is by turns insightful, revealing, and funny, but its greatest strength is that it is always real—authentic, brave, and vulnerable. Matthew is unflinching in showing us the boy he was and the man he has become. This is a book with powerful ramifications that go beyond race and masculinity and touch the humanity of all our becomings.”
—Antonio Michael Downing, author of Saga Boy
“Wow! Just wow! Before I’d even finished the first chapter, I read words on the page that I've only thought about in my mind and never seen in print. Ever. Matthew was inside my head this entire book and made me reflect on my own responsibility as a Black man and how I present versus who I really am. Black Boys Like Me isn’t simply a book about race. It's a meditation on life as a racialized individual. Absolutely fantastic.”
—Kern Carter, author of Boys and Girls Screaming

“In Black Boys Like Me, Matthew R. Morris shows a level of honesty and self-reflection that few of us are capable of, and he has the skill to articulate clearly what he finds there. There were moments when I saw things on the page that I had often felt but never expressed, nor knew how to. Morris captures the struggle of trying to interpret all the various signals telling us what we are supposed to be. Jolting, raw, and intensely personal, Morris’s book is not a guidebook for growing up Black—it is a guidebook for conversations about the confusion that growing up Black all too often presents.”
—Craig Shreve, author of The African Samurai
Black Boys Like Me crafts the difficult truths of post-1960s Black masculinities. Matthew R. Morris’s story is only individual in so far as it is an example and even an index of the collective story that so many Black men have lived. Black boys and men make up themselves somewhere between the elements of popular culture (especially hip-hop), sport culture (basketball and football in particular), the perpetual anticipation of violence—and sometimes its actual arrival—suspicion, fear, and a host of other degradations. And yes, importantly, survival and self-making is forged out of support, love, tenderness, and community, too. Morris’s powerful words alert us to all that is possible when the truth of that collective story can not only be told but also heard on its own terms.”
—Rinaldo Walcott, author of The Long Emancipation and Chair of Africana and American Studies at the University at Buffalo

Black Boys Like Me is a riveting piece of writing that takes the reader on a journey with a young Morris as he navigates his community, interrogates his identity, and challenges his own thinking. It is a beautifully raw yet cerebral work that truly encompasses wider discussions of society in a manner that is unapologetic but vulnerable and open to growth. I have never poured through a series of essays in a memoir with so much meaning. Morris brings the reader with him as he explores and inflects his past, his paths, and where he is now—from interactions with police, body language, lived experience in sport, the justice system, clothing, and music. This is a stunning piece of work and crosses disciplines of race, class, sport, sociology, and history. I would recommend Morris’s work to anyone interested in reading something not only fresh with life but with passion and integrity.”
—Shireen Ahmed, CBC journalist, public speaker, and award-winning sports activist

“In a blend of academic discourse and personal narrative, Morris provides a compelling picture of how being Black has operated and continues to operate in his life and that of others. He reminds us that racial identity is not simply a choice that a person makes, but a product of the socio-political context in which individuals live, and how they are viewed based on skin colour particularly in societies in which racism and related inequities operate to determine life opportunities, trajectories, and outcomes. In pushing beyond the common constructs and/or stereotypes of Black personhood, Morris reveals the complex, contradictory, contextual, and changing nature of Blackness. Black Boys Like Me is a timely must-read book.”
—Carl E. James, author of Colour Matters: Essays on the Experiences, Education, and Pursuits of Black Youth, co-author of First-Generation Student Experiences in Higher Education, and Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, at York University

Black Boys Like Me is a certified classic. Morris guides us through a master class of storytelling and introspection that illuminates our past and present socio-political reality. This book is a must-read as it beautifully mirrors hip-hop’s transformative impact in shaping the current moment and our future reality.”
—Curtis Carmichael, author of Butterflies in the Trenches
“There is no place to know each other better than through our stories. Matthew R. Morris has fearlessly told a story of staring down systemic barriers. This book invites us to listen deeply to lived experience, and to engage and ask permission. Morris writes about the complexity of family and love, and about the central issues of equity and justice in our time. He says it best himself when he insists on ‘being truly accepted for me.’ Read Black Boys Like Me and listen.”
—Kim Echlin, author of Speak, Silence

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