Let me be clear. I am a HUGE Jesmyn Ward fan. Her writing is amazing. I love the eloquent way she speaks. She represents a region of this country that needs to have their stories told. I admire the courage she displays in the specific, and sometimes ultra personal, matters she details in her books. This is my book review for “Men We Reaped” by one of my favorite authors, Jesmyn Ward.
“Nickel Boys” written by Colson Whitehead is an emotional, gut wrenching book based on the real life events which took place in a Florida reform school over the course of decades. This book serves as an in your face reminder of the seeds of racism and violence against our society’s most vulnerable that unfortunately happened (and happens) with little impedance.
When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades
To call this book a hard read for me would be an understatement. As a reader, I tend to embed myself in the emotions and feelings of the characters of the book. It helps me “feel” the sentiments the author is trying to convey and I enjoy books that do this well. Authors like Bernice L. McFadden (Read my review of Sugar) and Colson Whitehead just happen to be masters at this.
From beginning to end the storytelling was fantastic. It moved fluidly from character to character mostly centering in on Elwood, an unfortunate casualty of the racist, Jim Crow culture that supported the subject school: Nickel Academy. The way he described the academy itself gave life and spirit to lifeless buildings and landscapes. And because of this readers will run the gamut of emotions like I did: anger, sympathy, joy, disgust, hope, among others.
The racist themes in the book are logical but nonetheless frustrating. Readers will have to read through page after page of police discrimination, brutal beatings and downright infuriating racist behavior to juveniles. The book details everything!…and it should. The goal of the book wasn’t to slap a romance on a tragedy. It was to descriptively illustrate the human crimes that were done to the students before, during and after their time at Nickel Academy.
There is one point worth mentioning about the book that was small but massively important. The concept of willful ignorance on the part of all of the citizens who surrounded or were connected to the institution. The state officials, local business people, police and many others turned a blind eye to or even worse profited off the activity at Nickel and this allowed their activity to go on for decades. This theme unfortunately applies to the current United States as well especially as we look at the brutal murders of George Floyd, most recently, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner. The book summarized the thought like this:
“If everyone looked the other way, then everybody was in on it. If he looked the other way, he was as implicated as the rest. That’s how he saw it, how he’d always seen things.”
This book is amazing and I recommend this book for all. I wish stories like this never existed but Colson in this case was not pulling from an imaginary story line. This nightmare is real life.
Pick up your copy today wherever dope literature is sold.. Here are a few of our suggestions:
“Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America” written by Michael Eric Dyson is an educational and enlightening book about race, American psychology and societal ills written specifically to white Americans. The book serves as an emotional appeal for the audience to tackle head on America’s avoidance of its destructive history, inhuman, racist structures and the residual outcomes of these actions and institutions.
“The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life” written by Kevin Powell is a collection of essays written to open necessary dialogue. Topics covered include important and relevant topics ranging from mental health to reforming the definition of manhood to economic empowerment in the Black community. The basic premise of the work itself, engaging unspoken conversations, is often identified but almost never tackled head on with a spirit of resolution.
There are many things that are just so right about “On The Come Up”. It’s subject matter, likeable characters and well-told story are enough to give it high ratings. I for one gave it just that: a HIGH FIVE for book dopeness. But that’s not where the artistry ends.
I have long been a follower of author and professor, Bernice L. McFadden on social media. Personally I think she is overall an interesting and entertaining follow (Instagram: Bernice L. McFadden). However, I shamefully admit I have not read any of her works until I picked up this book, Sugar. After reading this novel, I will do every thing possible until my last breath to right this tragedy.
Someone pleeaassee tell me they had such cool books when I was a child?? Books that had handsome little black boys and girls that looked like me and the little girls I knew. Story lines that are filled with fun times and cool activities. I am so thrilled to join with Multicultural Children’s Book Day (http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com) as a book reviewer for some absolutely fantastic and diverse books that are just like I described.
If you are like me, your reading selections lead you to occasionally pick the same type of book in consecutive selections. Maybe you go on a crime drama binge or maybe you pick a few historical fiction tiles in a row. I have seen many complain about this issue. But have no fear! I have a perfect reading rut buster: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.
THE NARRATIVE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
As we move from February to March, we move from the cold of the winter to the promise of a rejuvenating spring. We move ever further away from the history of the past year and plant our feet firmly in to the optimistic future of the new calendar. We also make a unique transition from an ultra focus on Black History to a finer appreciation of Women’s History. Although accidental, our group’s choice of #BookoftheMonth for February and March and my personal reading choice in between seem fitting and inspirational at the same time.