An eloquent, restless, and enlightening memoir by one of the most thought-provoking journalists today about growing up Black and queer in America, reuniting with the past, and coming of age their own way.
One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad was raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father. Through reframing their own coming-of-age story, Ziyad takes readers on a powerful journey of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, and of navigating the equally complex path toward finding their true self in New York City. Exploring childhood, gender, race, and the trust that is built, broken, and repaired through generations, Ziyad investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given and challenges the irreconcilable binaries that restrict them.
Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, radical and reflective, Hari Ziyad’s vital memoir is for the outcast, the unheard, the unborn, and the dead. It offers us a new way to think about survival and the necessary disruption of social norms. It looks back in tenderness as well as justified rage, forces us to address where we are now, and, born out of hope, illuminates the possibilities for the future.
“In Black Boy Out of Time, Ziyad reflects on the longterm impacts of assimilating into a more normative society shaped by prison-based ideologies and how it left them with little understanding of who they were. Ziyad notes that Black people are refused access to childhood due to the punitive social conditioning that protects gender and class categories, and asserts that Black childhood can only be reclaimed through prison abolition.” —Black Youth Project
“Although Ziyad writes explicitly as a Black writer with Black readers in mind, this extension of kindness in the place of opprobrium can be applied across cultures. They bring the same righteous energy in their writing about Black experience to the chapters on awakening to a queer identity. In the final sections, it’s heartening to find Ziyad committed to a loving relationship. With eloquence and compassion, the author examines ‘how to manage a serodiscordant relationship’—their fiancé is living with HIV, ‘a widely criminalized disease’—and how ‘to deal with the trauma from past sexual violence that refuses to stop rearing its hideous head from time to time.’ It’s an ongoing project, one that the author tackles with grace and insight via the act of writing…Ziyad successfully extracts the essence of being Black, queer, and full of tenderness.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Racebaitr editor-in-chief Ziyad merges astute sociopolitical analysis with soul-baring honesty in their striking debut memoir…with its candidness and sharp prose that doggedly links the personal to the political, Ziyad’s tale is engrossing and necessary.” —Publishers Weekly
“An unflinchingly honest assessment of the ways in which the lives and experiences of Black children are devalued. Recommended for readers interested in anti-racism.” —Library Journal
“Amazon imprint Little A have been committed to publishing diverse voices since its inception and this coming-of-age memoir is no different…this is a compelling and moving account exploring childhood, gender, identity and race.” —Cosmopolitan UK
“This moving memoir is about Ziyad’s experiences growing up Black and queer in America and explores what it’s like to reunite with the past and come of age in your own way.” —Cosmopolitan
“Hari Ziyad is one of those writers who transports you into the moments, the minutes, and the seconds of Black life in subtle and gentle ways that are rarely possible. Every word drips with a deep love and commitment to telling true and just stories about our nuanced Black queer lives. Black Boy Out of Time is so moving, so alive, so real. This book is a reclamation and celebration of Black childhood and coming-of-age in all its hidden beauty and pain. We need this memoir, and I’m so grateful Ziyad is here to write it.” —Jenn Jackson, Syracuse University professor and Teen Vogue columnist
“Hari Ziyad consistently creates work that centers the voices and lives of the most marginalized members in our society. Not only is their work brilliant and insightful, but they challenge readers to examine themselves in a way very few writers can do. Alice Walker once wrote, ‘Those who love us never leave us alone with our grief. At the moment they show us our wound, they reveal they have the medicine.’ Ziyad’s words cut deep, but they also provide healing.” —Shanita Hubbard, author of Miseducation: A Woman’s Guide to Hip-Hop
“Hari Ziyad is committed to recovering the unrecoverable—the seconds, the minutes, the hours of things shed and discarded as if there were no value to be found in what we were, even though it leads us to what we are. Ziyad is surgical in this pursuit, attempting to be as careful but incisive as possible so that memory does more than remember: it testifies. Like all of their previous writings, Black Boy Out of Time is tribute to and examination of the necessary, the overlooked, the irreconcilable, and the witnessing the world would much rather not do. Ziyad is both lightning rod and lightning bolt.” —Robert Jones Jr., author of The Prophets and creator of Son of Baldwin
“Every generation has its defining writers, and Hari Ziyad is one of ours. Their writings force you to interrogate and challenge everything you thought you knew and to look at the wound you pretended wasn’t there, but they never leave you without the cure to finally heal the pain.” —George M. Johnson, bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue and We Are Not Broken
“Black ‘boys’ who never come of age, who are always already someone or something else, are at the heart of Hari Ziyad’s work. Ziyad writes with clarity, passion, care, and a deep love for all Black people—especially those of us who are constantly moving through and around gender. Black Boy Out of Time is a necessary read for Black queer boys and nonbinary people who can relate to finding themselves in a world designed to keep them lost.” —Da’Shaun Harrison, author of Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness
“I often think about cultural work as before Hari Ziyad and after Hari Ziyad. I don’t know that there is another writer and cultural worker who has done more to make us intellectually, imaginatively, and bodily engage with the ways that traditional conceptions of gender, sexuality, Blackness, class, childhood, empire, and power necessarily mangle our relationships to each other. Hari’s work goes far beyond bombastic pull quotes or titillating essay titles. In their hands, we see language being cared for, carved up, and absolutely dismantled. More than anything, Hari’s art insists that we ask not simply the hard questions, but the unintelligible questions we’ve convinced ourselves have no answers. In their work, I understand that pointed questions rooted in a love of Black queer folk must be part of our liberation. They have changed the way people write, think, and love one another on and off the internet.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy, Long Division, and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
“Hari Ziyad’s incisive writing is a rare mix of balladry, criticism, and reportage. They write of the times with clarity and courage. They appeal to truth and beauty. And in so doing offer us Black-loving art that is both shotgun and balm.” —Darnell L. Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America
“Hari Ziyad’s work is the cohesion of all their interests in the so-called marginalized into a single force that illuminates just how central to freedom communities that are abused and underestimated by this society truly are. If the margins are said to be the dwelling place of Ziyad’s subjectivity, then they see their job as showing how the ones in the margins are also the ones who ensure Earth keeps spinning. Through their eyes, the disfigured, the queer, and the riotous are given life, a stage, a platform, and an embrace.” —Phillip B. Williams, author of Thief in the Interior, winner of the 2017 Whiting Award, Kate Tufts Award, and Lambda Literary Award
“Alongside James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, Darnell L. Moore and Danez Smith, Hari Ziyad’s work fits in as an exciting new entry in the canon of queer Black American literature. At the same time, Ziyad’s writing stands out as a stunningly original voice, and they tackle race and gender in ways writers of all races seem to find too hot to touch. Yet as challenging as Ziyad’s ideas are, they are not inaccessible. Though Ziyad writes explicitly as a Black writer with Black readers in mind (and Black children at the heart of their work), white people are always asking me about their provocative stories. Ziyad stirs impassioned debates and strong reactions from both those people I know who have been following their work for years and those who are encountering it for the first time.” —Steven W. Thrasher, Northwestern University professor and author of The Viral Underclass: How Racism, Ableism, and Capitalism Plague Humans on the Margins
“Hari Ziyad is a new and important voice narrating for readers both the trauma experienced by Black people and their struggle for liberation. Throughout this text, Ziyad pulls back the curtain and interrogates how anti-Black racism manifests not only in the structures Black people encounter but also in our interactions between each other. Beyond providing texture to the hurt that, too often, animates Blackness, Ziyad’s book details for the reader the possibilities and directions of Black freedom and healing today, and it explores how we must protect Black children from a perpetual cycle of trauma. Ziyad’s book will add nuance and depth to current renderings of what it is to be Black and queer and what type of personal/political liberation is possible.” —Cathy J. Cohen, author of The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics and Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics