Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson | Riverhead Books {Book Review}

book review of Red at the Bone

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Book Summary:

An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other, from the New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.
 
Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Publication Date:

September 17th, 2019

Genre:

Literary Fiction

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

audiobook recommendation

The hard copy of Red at the Bone is patiently waiting in my October TBR pile but that stack is getting pretty big…So a couple of weeks ago I looked on the Libby App (you can read more about the Libby App on my blog post about Kindle e-readers HERE) and our library recently purchased a copy of the audiobook so the wait was only 2 weeks. I listened to this one yesterday (clocking it at 3.5 hours it was totally doable!) and wow!

This was an amazingly beautiful audiobook and the four narrators along with Jacqueline Woodson were just incredible. ⁣⁣I love stories that bring us back to how someone arrived at a poignant moment in time. Red at the Bone moves back and forth with different timelines to include stories of the main character’s family members and flowed very easily for me as a listener. ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
The perspectives on life, parenthood, identity, race, class, and self-discovery are raw, powerful, thought-provoking and also heartwarming. While this book is on the shorter side, it packs a punch. Woodson’s writing evokes emotion and I love that she had each multi-faceted character speak for themselves which I think added so much depth and perspective.  I highly recommend this and it was just wonderful on audio!

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.