Our September book is the devastating but absolutely essential story of a brutal Florida reformatory school for boys set during the Jim Crow years. Make no mistake readers, this is fiction based on fact which uncovers a dark and shameful period of American history and the ways in which racism has long operated as sanctioned activity. Yes, we know, it sounds like a heavy read and it is. But the book is not filled with gratuitous detail; this is a novel that achieves emotional resonance not by indulging in descriptions of violence but by making us fall in love with its characters.
Elwood and Turner, two philosophical opposites, pair up in The Nickel Academy and face their unconscionable realities together. The more they come to understand the freedom they deserve, the less they get and it’s this set-up combined with the familiar coming-of-age narrative that make it such a compelling and affecting read.
We can’t say too much more without giving anything away for, although this book is short, it is filled with some damn good plot twists. One of those books everyone should read!
A few links if you want to go deeper...
- Book review and interview with the author on the Fresh Air podcast.
- Roxane Gay hosts a book club on VICE News alongside Mira Jacob, Mike Eagle and Debbie Millman.
- NPR story from 2012 reporting on the excavation of unmarked graves by a team of archaeology students at Florida's Dozier School of which the book is based on.
- A in-depth review published by The Guardian.
- The official website for survivors of abuse at The Dozier School.