HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Nickel Boys

by Colson Whitehead

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,9722113,022 (4.25)351
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.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 351 mentions

English (195)  French (4)  Catalan (4)  Dutch (3)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (209)
Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
Anything Whitehead writes is pure gold. It's just a matter of how thick it is. This story of a reform school in the 1960s, the Nickel Academy, is thick. ( )
  ben_r47 | Feb 22, 2024 |
Colson Whitehead is a wonderful storyteller no matter what genre he selects. This historical fiction is beautifully told and has a surprising twist. In the acknowledgments, Mr. Whitehead reveals that this work of fiction is based on the story of the Dozier School for Boys in Mariana, Florida, whose horrifying history began to be excavated - literally - by archaeology students from the University of South Florida and was exhaustively reported on in The Tampa Bay Times. Its fictional counterpart, Nickel Academy, is a nightmarish place that terrorizes, sodomizes, brutalizes, and sometimes tortures to death its students, run by sadistic brutes, many of them Klansmen. Some find a way out; some never leave alive; the rest live with the scars all their lives. Chilling. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
I devoured this book in less than 24 hours. An emotionally challenging book, it pulls you in from the first page. No gratuitous scenes for shock value; it shocks simply by being so believable and real. A twist near the end literally caused me to lay the book down for a moment while I processed it. ( )
  jilldugaw | Jan 27, 2024 |
I ated the Underground Railway, but loved this. It’s about a boy sent to a reform school. The reform school is based on a real life one although the story otself is fictional. ( )
  mumoftheanimals | Jan 19, 2024 |
Fantastic

A fantastic, beautifully written, heartbreaking story. I had read the NPR expose on the Dozier boy's school in Florida several years ago, and that made me interested in this book. I loved the way Whitehead took such a horrible tragedy and humanized its victims, giving them voice and power beyond the grave. ( )
  megacool24 | Dec 18, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
The books feel like a mission, and it’s an essential one. In a mass culture where there is no shortage of fiction, nonfiction, movies and documentaries dramatizing slavery and its sequels under other names (whether Jim Crow or mass incarceration or “I can’t breathe”), Whitehead is implicitly asking why so much of this output has so little effect or staying power. He applies a master storyteller’s muscle not just to excavating a grievous past but to examining the process by which Americans undermine, distort, hide or “neatly erase” the stories he is driven to tell.
added by Lemeritus | editThe New York Times, Frank Rich (pay site) (Jul 14, 2019)
 
Even when he’s arrested on the flimsiest evidence and sentenced to Nickel Academy, Elwood clings to his faith that goodness will be rewarded, that the rule of law will prevail. The academy, as Whitehead presents it, is a place of well-groomed exteriors and encouraging principles — a place, if you will, like the United States at large... And what a deeply troubling novel this is. It shreds our easy confidence in the triumph of goodness and leaves in its place a hard and bitter truth about the ongoing American experiment.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Washington Post, Ron Charles (pay site) (Jul 9, 2019)
 

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Colson Whiteheadprimary authorall editionscalculated
Huang, LindaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, JDNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koay, Pei LoiDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Libbert, NeilPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munday, OliverCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Recoursé, CharlesTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Awards

Distinctions

Notable Lists

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
For Richard Nash
First words
Even in death the boys were trouble.
Quotations
They were sent to Nickel for offenses Elwood had never heard of: malingering, mopery, incorrigibility. Words the boys didn’t understand either, but what was the point when their meaning was clear enough: Nickel. I got busted for sleeping in a garage to keep warm, I stole five dollars from my teacher, I drank a bottle of cough syrup and went wild one night. I was on my own trying to get by (Whitehead 81).
He had a date, now he needed a course of action. He felt rotten those first days out of the hospital until he came up with a scheme that combined Turner’s advice with what he’d learned from his heroes in the movement. Watch and think and plan. Let the world be a mob Elwood will walk through it. They might curse and spit and strike him, but he’d make it through to the other side. Bloodied and tired, but he’d make it through (Whitehead 93).
“It used to be worse in the old days,” Harper said, “from what my aunt says. But the state cracked down and now we lay off the south-campus stuff.” Meaning, they only sold the black students’ supplies. “We had this good old boy who used to run Nickel, Roberts, who would’ve sold the air you breathe if he could’ve. Now that was a crook!” (Whitehead 97).
The boy had been a reedy little runt when he got to Nickel and regularly punked out his first year until he learned to fight, and then he preyed on the smaller kids, taking them into closets and supply rooms—you teach what you’re taught (Whitehead 170).
Plenty of boys had talked of the secret graveyard before, but as it had ever been with Nickel, no one believed them until someone else said it.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.25)
0.5
1 3
1.5 1
2 11
2.5 2
3 125
3.5 45
4 364
4.5 98
5 401

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 202,079,535 books! | Top bar: Always visible