The Nickel Boys

Published Nov. 9, 2019 by Doubleday.


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5 stars (1 review)

Winner of the 2020 Pulizer Prize for Fiction.

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 a high school senior about to start classes at a local 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. Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries …

this book is phenomenal

5 stars

Go read it, plz. This is some of Whitehead's best writing to date, and the story is hypnotic -- horrific and tragic, but shot through with enough fragile bits of hope to keep you wishing for the best. The twist at the end was impressive and sad. Fuck the carceral system and its offshoots.