Elwood Curtis, raised by his loving grandmother, spends his days sweeping the floor at the cigar shop and getting straight A’s at school. It is the early 1960’s in Tallahassee, Florida and as Elwood plays the speeches of Martin Luther King over and over again on the turntable, he dreams of college and a brighter future for all. He is raised on good manners, kindness and hope. Sadly, on the first day of a college class that he has proudly gained entrance, Elwood is detained and mistakenly sent to a juvenile detention center called The Nickel Academy. With no means to fight this archaic system filled with prejudice and a sadistic self serving staff, Elwood and his only friend Turner, struggle to survive and plan their escape. These boys are beaten, raped, lied to and stolen from. Most boys barely survive and those who do not are labeled as run-aways. Based on an actual reform school called Dozier, which closed in 2011, University of South Florida archaeology students have discovered remains of many bodies mysteriously buried nearby and evidence of the brutality that made up this “school” for boys. This well written, painful look at America’s past (and present) is another novel by author Colson Whitehead that simply cannot be missed.
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