The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a Black young man growing up in Tallahassee during the 1950s and 60s. Elwood is surrounded by the injustice of segregation but inspired by the early Civil Rights Movement. Raised with the love of his strict and religious grandmother, Elwood is a serious hard-working boy who is unable to turn a blind eye to injustice. It sets him apart from the other boys in his neighborhood but puts him in danger when he’s sent to a corrupt reform school.
A profile of the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black teens who were falsely accused and convicted of rape resulting in Supreme Court rulings that set precedence for future civil rights cases.
“Moonlight” is a great study in the facade of machismo and hyper-masculinity. It explores the development and suppression of Black boys’ and men’s identities and sexuality. On a basic level, it’s a coming of age story about a gay Black male. Yet, because it’s about that it’s also about so much more.
In some ways Manchild in the Promised Land is a book about a rambunctious boy and his group of friends coming of age in the 1940s-1950s. In a different place and if Claude Brown were a different race, this could have been an innocent and heart-warming story. But, on the gritty streets of Harlem, Claude’s life is rife with violence, crime, and despair from a young age.
The Corner by David Simon and Edward Burns is one of the most saddening and inspiring books I’ve ever read. The book follows the lives of residents near the corner of West Fayette and Monroe Streets in West Baltimore over the course of a year in the early 90’s. The authors lay bare how a history of poverty, crime, and drug addiction tore apart the neighborhood, families, and individuals.