For those who loved The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

November 9, 2020 – Chelsea Dunbar, Adult Services

If you enjoyed…


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 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. –From Penguin Random House


…you should try:

Delicious Foods by James HannahamAvailable at the library and the Libby app.

Held captive by her employers — and by her own demons — on a mysterious farm, a widow struggles to reunite with her young son in this uniquely American story of freedom, perseverance, and survival. Darlene, once an exemplary wife and a loving mother to her young son, Eddie, finds herself devastated by the unforeseen death of her husband. Unable to cope with her grief, she turns to drugs, and quickly forms an addiction. One day she disappears without a trace. Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Eddie, now left behind in a panic-stricken search for her, Darlene has been lured away with false promises of a good job and a rosy life. A shady company named Delicious Foods shuttles her to a remote farm, where she is held captive, performing hard labor in the fields to pay off the supposed debt for her food, lodging, and the constant stream of drugs the farm provides to her and the other unfortunates imprisoned there.

In Delicious Foods, James Hannaham tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. Through Darlene’s haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, through the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, and through the irreverent and mischievous voice of the drug that narrates Darlene’s travails, Hannaham’s daring and shape-shifting prose infuses this harrowing experience with grace and humor. The desperate circumstances that test the unshakeable bond between this mother and son unfold into myth, and Hannaham’s treatment of their ordeal spills over with compassion. Along the way we experience a tale at once contemporary and historical that wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom, forgiveness and redemption, tenacity and the will to survive. –From Barnes & Noble




Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline WoodsonAvailable at the library and the Libby app.

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion. –From Goodreads




The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayanna MathisAvailable at the library and the Libby app.

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation’s tumultuous journey. –From Penguin Random House




Cane River by Lalita TademyAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

Tademy halted a career as a high-powered technology executive to research her family’s history. Her findings–four generations of strong-willed black women who survived slavery and racial injustices, maintained strong family ties, and left a legacy of faith and accomplishment–are transformed here into a powerful historical novel. The tale is told from the perspectives of Suzette, Philomene, and Emily, all born and raised in a small farming community in Louisiana. Suzette was raped by one of her master’s relatives, and this set a pattern of race-mixing for her descendants. Philomene, Suzette’s daughter, is desired by a powerful white man, Narcisse, and, after her slave husband is sold away and she loses her children, succumbs to his attentions. But she uses her sexual allure and a gift for premonition to secure protection and, after slavery ends, land and education for her family. Philomene’s fierce determination reconstitutes the family on land she has secured from Narcisse. She is also determined that her daughter, Emily, will have every possible advantage, including, eventually, a wealthy white protector. Throughout three generations, however, none of the women escapes the social conventions forbidding interracial marriages; each is abandoned or driven away when her white protector wants to produce legal progeny. The incidental, progressive whitening of the family ends when Emily’s son, T. O., marries a dark-skinned woman and reclaims his racial identity, inaugurating the line from which Tademy comes. Including old photographs and documents verifying the reality that underlies it, this fascinating account of American slavery and race-mixing should enthrall readers who love historical fiction. –From Novelist Plus




Homegoing by Yaa GyasiAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half-sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery. Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. –From Penguin Random House




Mudbound by Hillary JordanAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

Hillary Jordan’s award-winning debut novel, set in 1946, finds city-bred Laura McAllan being forced to move from her comfortable home in Memphis, Tennessee to a remote cotton farm on the Mississippi Delta with her husband, Henry; their two daughters; and her racist and sadistic father-in-law. There she has no indoor plumbing or electricity, and when the rain waters rise, her family is literally stranded in a sea of mud. The return of two celebrated World War II soldiers to the Delta shakes things up for the family—one is Henry’s brother, who is everything Henry is not, and the other is the eldest son of black sharecroppers and a newly minted war hero who finds that his bravery in combat counts for very little in the Jim Crow South in this powerful read. –From Barnes & Noble




If Beale Street Could Talk by James BaldwinAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

In this honest and stunning novel, now a major motion picture directed by Barry Jenkins, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions–affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche. –From Barnes & Noble




The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi CoatesAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures. –From Goodreads




God Help the Child by Toni MorrisonAvailable at the library and on the Libby app.

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish … Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother … Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she’s suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother … and Sweetness, Bride’s mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” –From Goodreads




Red at the Bone by Jacqueline WoodsonAvailable at the library and on the Libby app 

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 ceremonya 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. –From Goodreads

 

 

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