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The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead

Title: The Nickel Boys

Author:  Colson Whitehead

ISBN:  9780708899410

Weight:  661g

Signed first edition, first printing



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Our price:  £21.99

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in 1960s Florida.

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone.  Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enrol in the local black college.  But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honourable and honest men’.

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’.

Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’  But Elwood’s fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.

The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

Peer & Press Reviews

Colson Whitehead’s book is not a polemic, but in presenting the unconscionable history of this particular institution, keeping boys in solitary confinement or even burying them “out the back”, he once again builds an allegorical history that resonates in the present.

Tim Adams, Observer

Forceful and tightly wrought…  Whitehead homes in on the way in which every action fits into a fully orchestrated whole, which is why I would wish everyone, black or white, to read this novel.  He demonstrates to superb effect how racism in America has long operated as a codified and sanctioned activity intended to enrich one group at the expense of another.

Aminatta Forna, Guardian

[Whitehead] has produced yet another modern classic…  He’s also adept at creating characters of unforgettable flesh-and-blood immediacy, with even the swiftest pen portrait conveying the full weight of a lived history.  Quietly and purposefully heartbreaking in its portrayal of the lifelong legacy of abuse, it is quite outstanding.

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

Bibliographic Info

Attribute Details
Title: The Nickel Boys
Book Features
Edition / printing: First edition, first printing
Overall condition: Fine / Fine (for more info, see our article on condition grades)
Signed: On the title page
Awards and Media
Awards and prizes Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2020 – longlist
Book Stats
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Imprint: Fleet
Publication date:
Printed by: Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A.
ISBN 13: 9780708899410
ISBN 10: 0708899412
Format: Hardcover with dust jacket
Pages: 208
Size (h x w x d): 223 x 144 x 24mm
Design Credits
Author photograph: Chris Close
Book design: Pei Loi Koay
Jacket design: Oliver Munday
Jacket image: Reflection, Harlem, New York, 1964 (detail) © Neil Libbert / Bridgeman Images

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