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The Nickel Boys: A Novel
by Colson Whitehead

Published: 2019-07-16
Hardcover : 224 pages
17 members reading this now
37 clubs reading this now
2 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish ...
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Introduction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual and moral training" so the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men."
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys' fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of July 2019: Based on a real school for boys that closed in Florida in 2011 after more than one hundred years in existence, Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Academy is the kind of institution that purports to rebrand bad boys into good young men. So in theory it should be a good place for Elwood, a young black man who, although he had planned to attend a nearby college, was caught unknowingly riding in a stolen car. But what happens inside Nickel Academy does not match its public image, and Elwood is about to learn that, no matter how idealistic or optimistic he is, his life is taking a very bad turn. He is lucky to meet Turner, who does not share Elwood’s idealism and who helps him to survive Nickel Academy. But what Elwood experiences there will never leave him. Set in the 1960s during Jim Crow, The Nickel Boys is both an enjoyable read and a powerful portrayal of racism and inequality that acts as a lever to pry against our own willingness to ignore it. —Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by svanderwalde@yahoo.com (see profile) 10/31/19

 
by liznamugosa14@gmail.com (see profile) 10/16/19

 
by gellnerwoman@aol.com (see profile) 09/17/19

We would recommend this book. Well written and unfortunately based on facts of a time that black people were severely mistreated.

 
by jcrbean@hotmail.com (see profile) 08/30/19

 
  "The unfair, brutal history of reform schools comes to life."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 08/28/19

Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead, author; Bahni Turpin, narrator
Nickel Boys is based on a reform school, Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, which truly existed in Florida. So, although this is
... (read more)

 
  "the nickel boys"by Carolynr (see profile) 07/23/19

I think I am just not a fan of this author. However I did like this book better than the Underground Railroad, and appreiciate this subject matter and the reason he wrote the book. I found the forward... (read more)

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