The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead

Published: July 16, 2019

Publisher: Doubleday

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from an Indie

Key Words: Reform school, Historical Fiction, The Black Experience in Jim Crow/Civil Right Era

My Rating: 5 stars

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My Thoughts:

I LOVED this book and because of the content, that feels hard to say…but I did. This is based on a real reform school in Marianna, Florida that was operated for 111 years and “warped the lives of thousands of children.” Here is more detail if you’re interested. You should definitely be interested-it’s harrowing,  but we should all know what happened there, so please give that article a read. To top it off, the school only just closed in 2011?! What in the actual hell?! Whitehead, after hearing about the devastation that occurred behind those school walls including beatings, deaths, rape and other atrocious things, decided to write a book about it and The Nickel Boys is what it turned into. It is magnificent, telling, devastating…and truly a masterpiece. I finished it over a week ago and I’m still thinking about those boys and their story (and frantically googling about the real school in Florida every chance I get).

I don’t want to say too much because honestly, you just need to read it to appreciate it. And then probably read it again to appreciate it even more. That’s where I’m at. Although I have zero experience with reform school, or being Black in a white world, I did go to an all-women, Catholic school (which I should preface by saying it was NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like this) and I have some thoughts. There is a sense of discipline and control in schools like this. There are structures that must be adhered to and yes, scholastics are very important (in my school at least), but discipline and structure are almost top of the list. There are laws that don’t apply to us as students in a Catholic school and I remember knowing that very well. Nothing ever happened when I was there, but I remember stories of past generations and the types of punishments that were allowed. Again, NOTHING like this, but knuckle slapping with rulers and things of that nature happened in the past. There is a control that the adults in charge think they need to get a handle on early, and rules and discipline are there “for a reason.” Keep in mind-this is only coming from my experience at a relatively well-off, Catholic school that my parents were invested in (both actually with their presence, but also with their wallets). But I could see how a disciplinary reform school could turn into this something horrible really quickly. Although my experience was nothing like the experiences in this book, I can understand what it must have been like for children, especially Black children, to be sent to a reform school that is full of racism and bigotry, into the height on the Civil Rights and Jim Crow Movement in the 1960’s where the school (and world) is segregated, where teachers have formed a corruption circle among themselves with no outside monitoring?! Plus add the dimension that these are “bad kids” in need of discipline. This school is what you get.  What ACTUALLY went on in this school? What laws were being broken? What boy’s souls were being crushed for the rest of their lives? In this book, you’ll get those answers and more. I will never be the same after reading it. It truly crushed me.

The Nickel Boys is not for the faint of heart, but the writing is genius, the plot is immaculate, the details are truthful and succinct and overall, this book will make you think long after you read the last page.

I hope you read this one and if so, come chat with me on Instagram! Find me at @bookishfolk

bookishfolk…read instead.

After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published: September 19, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow

Where I picked up my book: Won in a giveaway

Key Words: post apocalyptic/dystopian, mother/daughter dynamics, adventure

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

I’m still in awe that this is Montag’s first novel. This is a fantastic literary debut that is full of scenery, slight panicked stomach feelings the entire time I was reading, hope, fear and gripping prose. I was hooked from the very beginning and am slowly learning that post apocalyptic/dystopian literature might be my favorite genre. Who knew?! But after a few dystopian books…I am completely sucked in to the genre and found myself frantically googling, “must read dystopian books” like it was my job the other day.

One of the major things that struck me in this book is the idea of motherhood. I am not a mother myself, but that didn’t matter. I kept picturing myself in Myra’s sitation (the mother), with a daughter to keep alive, no medical care to speak of, people out to get you, a fend for yourself attitude among a lot of the survivors of the flood, being surrounded by water and what that means for safety, how to get food to provide for your child…the list goes on and on. I already think a lot of moms are superheros, but this just solidified that idea in me. I mean…my wife and I spent a lot of time discussing how we would properly care for our dog should this situation arise, so how in the world would I protect and care for my child?! I had nothing but admiration for Myra.

But also…can we talk about climate change for a minute? I heard someone discuss this book in biblical terms and I was like…nah. I’m not going there. I don’t see this as a biblical flood at all. What I do see this as is a cry for help due to the shit storm that our world has gotten themselves into with climate change. It’s real folks-our sea levels are rising, our lands are burning, we are seeing more drought situations and our oceans are warming. It’s not good and although I’m not sure what Montag’s position is on how the Earth flooded in her novel-I’m going with global warming because that’s a real, legit concern for me, and probably a lot of you. It should make you furious and do as much as you can to help prevent exactly what After the Flood is about.

I loved this book! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It took me on a saga that was full of heartbreak and hope all wrapped into one. It was one of those books where I just kept flipping pages to find out what else was going to happen. I could vividly picture every scene and I’m soooo excited to see what Montag give us next. I think there are big things coming from here in the literary world!

As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk) and let’s chat books!

Bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Dominicana

Author: Angie Cruz

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick

Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.

I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.

1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.

2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂

3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.

4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!

5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.

6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.

At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.

Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

The Only Plane in the Sky

Author: Garrett M. Graff

Published: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Avid Reader Press 

Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)

Key Words: 9/11, Oral History, non-fiction, terrorism

My Rating: 5

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My Thoughts:

It’s hard to put into words how much this book means to me. I was in college in 2001 and I can remember that day like it was yesterday. The sky was blue in Buffalo, New York that morning and there was a nice, crisp feel in the air. We were listening to NPR in our art studio class and I was finishing up a linocut project on a back table. I remember hearing them say that a plane had stuck a building in NYC and I thought it must have been a prop plane pilot error. I remember thinking, who the hell doesn’t see a huge building from their plane?! I remember wondering if the pilot had a heart attack or maybe there was something wrong with the plane. And then the second plane hit and it didn’t take long for pure chaos to ensue in our classroom and on campus. I can remember what I was wearing, what part of the project I was working on and even the smell of paint and chemicals in the classroom at the time. I vividly remember the frantic feeling that surrounded so many of us that morning as we heard loudspeakers come on to tell us to leave campus immediately. I can still feel a professor’s hand where he grabbed my arm and told me to get home immediately and stay away from downtown (we are the second largest city in New York and there was a nervousness that we might be a target with Niagara Falls so close by). I can vividly remember the sirens going off in the streets and the frantic faces on my fellow students as we all left classes and campus to get home. I remember watching the news with my roommate for days in a row, only leaving the living room for short stints. I can recall the look on my friend’s faces when they said they now had to go to NYC because the President called in the National Guard and they were chosen to go. Like it’s yesterday, I remember the weeping and frenzied voices I heard in the halls that day as students frantically tried to get a hold of family and friends in NYC. Our city, state, country and world was forever changed that day and I immediately recognized that in myself, and saw it on the faces of everyone I passed that day and the weeks to come.

I also remember as the days passed, thinking that I wanted more. I wanted to know what was actually happening in the towers when the plane stuck the building. I wanted to know what the firefighters were thinking as they ran into the burning building and I wanted to know what it felt like to see so many of your friends not come home that night. I wanted to better understand what it was like to get a call from your partner, as they were up in the air, saying that they were on a plane that was hijacked. For better or worse, I wanted to know what it was like in those stairwells that day and just how it worked if you were on the 50th floor. I wanted to know what the streets were like in the following days and what exactly the flight attendants knew or didn’t know that day. I remember wanting to know how everyone got out of Manhattan and what it was like, if you survived, to get back to your apartment and realize what exactly had gone on. I was left with so many questions and truly, until I read this book, I felt like I was never going to get those answers. The Only Plane in the Sky gave me those answers and so many more. This book is not only packed full of information and first hand accounts, but the way it is set up is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. You walk through that day with precision, minute by minute, and if you’re anything like me, I think you will feel a bit more healed after reading it.

It’s really hard to put into words how important this book is for the world to read and just how much it meant to me as a reader. It’s a harrowing, educational, tragic, yet  hopeful account of a day is history that has forever changed the course of the world. Please, read this book and let’s never forget the events of that day, the people we lost and the courage of so many. Come find me on Instagram and let’s talk about this one.

bookishfolk…read instead.

September Wallpaper

Here is next month’s free wallpaper! I had so much fun creating this one…and JK Rowling is the icing on the cake! Hope you enjoy and as always, share it with family, friends and on all your social media accounts! Tag me too @bookishfolk!

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bookishfolk…read instead.