It was after the final Bondi Literary Salon of the year – in which we discussed Maggie O’Farrell’s utterly unputdownable Hamnet – that I bought a copy of Greyboy by Cole Brown. I had adored O’Farrell’s fictionalised reimagining of the story of Shakespeare’s son, and wanted to follow it with an entirely different book. And so when Jane – who owns Gertrude & Alice – suggested I buy a recently signed copy of Greyboy – whose author, Cole Brown, was living in Bondi, I immediately agreed.
I took it home with me that night and was immediately gripped by the Philadelphia author’s account of growing up as a Black man who – thanks to class privilege – ran in largely White circles. Made up of a collection of essays that are rich with nuanced vignettes that explore everything from racism to birthright, to education and activism, Greyboy is an eloquent and insightful examination of what it feels like to be both ostracised for being too white, and excluded for being not black enough.
Grey Boy Book Review
I loved the candid and upfront nature of Cole’s writing – and the way in which he didn’t shy away from topics that other writers may have done – from alcohol and drugs; to friendship; to death; to political injustice; to police brutality; to family life.
Without a doubt my favourite part of the book – and one that has stayed with me long after I turned the final page – was the letter that Cole included from his mother. A nostalgic ode to Cole’s coming of age that made me bereft with longing for both of my parents, it was an intimate insight into what is a clearly special relationship between the author and his much-loved mum.
With a lot of books that I enjoy, I can pinpoint exactly what it is that has engrossed me as a reader – with Greyboy, it’s something I struggle with. It’s a book that I’ve recommended to as many people as will listen, and yet I can’t quite articulate what it was about Greyboy that I loved. Whether it was the gifted storytelling, or the unique perspective, whether it was the timely nature of the tale, or the compelling topics covered, it’s a book that I think absolutely everyone should read.
Grey Boy Summary
An honest and courageous examination of what it means to navigate the in-between
Cole has heard it all before—token, bougie, oreo, Blackish—the things we call the kids like him. Black kids who grow up in white spaces, living at an intersection of race and class that many doubt exists. He needed to get far away from the preppy site of his upbringing before he could make sense of it all. Through a series of personal anecdotes and interviews with his peers, Cole transports us to his adolescence and explores what it’s like to be young and in search of identity. He digs into the places where, in youth, a greyboy’s difference is most acutely felt: parenting, police brutality, Trumpism, depression, and dating, to name a few.
Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World asks an important question: What is Blackness? It also provides the answer: Much more than you thought, dammit.
Cole Brown Author Bio
Raised in the city of Brotherly Love, Cole Brown is a Philly kid at heart. In between childhood summers spent between Ethiopia and the midwest, Cole matured in Philadelphia’s predominately white private schools and neighborhoods, an experience that delivered an awareness of race and class from a young age.
After graduating high school, Cole moved to Washington D.C. to attend Georgetown University as a finance major. Landmark events such as the death of Michael Brown and the election of Donald Trump caused Cole to rethink his original plans. Cole graduated from Georgetown with a major in Justice and Peace Studies and a passion for storytelling.
During his time at Georgetown, Cole was inspired to begin penning his first book, Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World.
Today, Cole lives between Sydney, Australia and New York.
Want to know more about the author of Grey Boy? Check out Booktopia’s interview with Cole Brown here. This is a wonderful op-ed by Cole on what it’s been like for him to watch his country crumble from afar. In need of a new read? Add one of the books Cole would take with him to a desert island to your literary wish list.
Love this post? Click here to subscribe.