Creativity Magazine

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

By Vickilane
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
"That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth." Tim O'Brien Just  as The Overstory told truths about a very real environmental struggle, The Nickel Boys hits home much harder than any newspaper article or documentary ever could
Yes, it's another important book-- the fictional account of a young black man, sent to a hellish reform school for the innocent mistake of accepting a ride with a stranger in a stolen car--his lofty ideals, his struggle to survive, and his hope of exposing the brutality and corruption at the heart of the school. Whitehead's compelling narrative is inspired by The Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida which existed for over a hundred years, perpetrating unspeakable wrongs on the young men sentenced to its 'care.'  Whitehead's writing is so strong that at first I was convinced he was writing from personal experience. Not so.  He relied on first person accounts by former 'students' (see  Official White House Boys Organization websiteHERE ) and reporting in the Tampa Bay Times that first exposed the vile practices at the facility -- physical and sexual abuse, food and supplies (soap! toothpaste!) meant for the boys sold to to local merchants, restaurants, and motels, and the graves--the official cemetery and the other one, the one for the boys who'd supposedly run away. The story was especially disturbing to me as I grew up aware that there was a reform school not far away in Marianna but completely unaware of the stark reality.  The story is set in the early Sixties, when Jim Crow and integration had collided and the proponents of segregation were especially brutal in defending their 'way of life.' And that disturbed me too, as I was blind to so much of what was going on at the time. Another excellent and necessary book. Another highly recommended.

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