The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead | Doubleday Books {Book Review}

book review of The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Book Summary:

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.
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

Publication Date:

July 16th, 2019

Genre:

Literary/Historical Fiction

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

The Nickel Boys is a powerful story that takes on important American history. Colson Whitehead uses rich metaphors and ornate descriptions in this haunting tale based on true events at The Dozier School for boys in Florida. The Nickel Boys is a historical fiction coming of age story centering around a young black man named Elwood Curtis at the beginning of the civil rights movement. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he was then sentenced to time at a “reform school in Florida.

Curtis and many other young black boys were sent to the Nickel Academy, and the mistreatment and abuse they encountered is just heartbreaking. This is absolutely an important story to tell but the book felt lacking for me at many points. While the story was impactful, I feel a lack of connection with the characters and felt wanting more. The ending, while definitely having the “wow” factor, did not feel satisfying to me as a reader because of my lack of connection with the characters.

Many will appreciate the shorter length of this book but for me, I feel that I missed something and wished I could have been given more details. His writing is powerful and filled with beautiful prose but I just didn’t feel as engaged as I had hoped with such an important subject matter. The book didn’t flow easily for me and I would have loved to get more inside the heads of these characters that while they were described with great detail, I never felt I really knew. I so respect how Whitehead brought this important history to life and the inequality that existed in this country much too recently the execution just didn’t totally work for me.

American Predator by Maureen Callahan | Viking | Book of the Month Add-On Selection {Book Review}

;Israel Keyes true crime novel

 American Predator by Maureen Callahan

Book Summary:

“Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. The names of notorious serial killers are usually well-known; they echo in the news and in public consciousness. But most people have never heard of Israel Keyes, one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” Keyes was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country. Over the course of fourteen years, Keyes would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home to Alaska, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.

When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day.

American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of interviews with key figures in law enforcement and in Keyes’s life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and to the limitations of traditional law enforcement.”

Publication Date:

July 2nd, 2019

Genre:

True Crime

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

My Review:

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(you can find the referral link for American Predator HERE)

I am a huge fan of true crime podcasts and documentaries and I especially enjoy going down the rabbit hole and diving into a series about a specific event or person. I had previously read and listened to a lot about Israel Keyes because of one his crimes happened just a few towns over from us. I wasn’t sure if this book would seem repetitive but after a few of my friends kept recommending this I decided to go for it.

I really don’t read a lot of true crime novels because I have found some of them to be a little dry in the past but I have to hand it to Maureen Callahan! Not only did she write an engrossing book that read almost like fiction, but I learned a lot of new things about Keyes that I had not heard about before.

It does feel a little strange to be raving about this type of genre, but if you are interested in this kind of topic, I think you would just find this book fascinating. I won’t go into too many details but if you are interested in the backstory of Keyes as well as the behind the scenes moments in the investigation of his crimes, you will love this.

This was a hard book to put down and Callahan is truly given at weaving these stories together in an informative and engaging manner. Highly recommend!

I picked this as my add-on book in August through my Book of the Month subscription. You can get your first BOTM book for free by using my referral link HERE.

The Transformation by James S. Gordon, MD |HarperOne {Book Review}

Book Review-76

The Transformation by James Gordon

Book Summary:

 A world-recognized authority and acclaimed mind-body medicine pioneer presents the first evidence-based program to reverse the psychological and biological damage caused by trauma.

In his role as the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), the worlds largest and most effective program for healing population-wide trauma, Harvard-trained psychiatrist James Gordon has taught a curriculum that has alleviated trauma to populations as diverse as refugees and survivors of war in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel, Gaza, and Syria, as well as Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, New York City firefighters and their families, and members of the U. S. military. Dr. Gordon and his team have also used their work to help middle-class professionals, stay-at-home mothers, inner-city children of color, White House officials, medical students, and people struggling with severe emotional and physical illnesses.

The Transformation represents the culmination of Dr. Gordon’s fifty years as a mind-body medicine pioneer and an advocate of integrative approaches to overcoming psychological trauma and stress. Offering inspirational stories, eye-opening research, and innovative prescriptive support, The Transformation makes accessible for the first time the methods that Dr. Gordon—with the help of his faculty of 160, and 6,000 trained clinicians, educators, and community leaders—has developed and used to relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of adults and children around the world.

Publication Date:

September 10th, 2019

Genre:

Self-Help, Healing, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Book Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

My Review:

discovering wholeness and healing after trauma

When I was offered a copy of The Transformation in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance. Trauma is often misunderstood and not only does Dr. Gordon give a wonderful explanation about what it can look like, but he also shares how we can indeed heal from it.

This book is readable while also being informative. Gordon shares a wonderful balance of stories, research, and techniques which as the reader can help you feel heard while also feeling like a proactive step in your own healing. His writing is also very accessible as someone who does not work in the medical field.

Gordon starts off by discussing the misconceptions of psychological trauma. He has a wonderful way of explaining that while it may look very different for people, it is something that can or will affect almost everyone in some capacity throughout one’s life. While this may sound dire, it can also help someone feel less alone.

“Trauma comes to all of us, and its consequences can be terrible. That’s the truth and the bad news. The good news is that all of us can use tools of self-awareness and self-care to heal our trauma and, indeed, to become healthier and more whole than we’ve ever been. If we accept the pain that trauma inflicts, it can open our minds and bodies to healing change-Our broken hearts can be open with tender consideration and new love for others, as well as ourselves.” -James Gordon, MD

Instead of subduing our fears, anger, and sadness, which can cause us to feel stuck, Gordon teaches us that there are alternatives. These new processes allow us to express emotions, become aware and deal with these emotions and also learn from them. When we learn how to use this emotion cycle, it can become a way for us to not only deal with past trauma but navigate it in the future.

trauma healing

Gordon incorporates many things like soft belly breathing, movement(shaking and dancing), connecting with nature and diet into his practices and it was fascinating how powerful these tools can be.

As someone who successfully uses medication for anxiety, I also appreciated that while Gordon emphasizes the importance of these more natural coping mechanisms, he isn’t against medication which can often be a very important part of someone’s healing and ongoing wellbeing. His approach is well rounded and I appreciated his balance between both traditional and more holistic practices.

I loved learning more about this thoughtful and compassionate approach towards something that has affected not only my life but many people around me and I highly recommend this.

Thank you to Dr. Gordon and FSB Associates for an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 

self-help books, healing