Between the Lines Book Club: The Dozier School for Boys

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club pick is Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. We will discuss the book in person at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on Saturday, Feb 22, 2020.

Nickel Boys is a composite of true stories about a very real place: Florida’s Dozier School for Boys. Here are some links to info about Dozier.

This report on NPR’s All Things Considered includes an interview with a boy who was hitchhiking and was sent to Dozier when the the driver who had picked him up turned out to be driving a stolen car.

CBS has a collection of historic photographs.

Smithsonian Magazine has an article with history and more links.

The following video contains a story about and tour of the facility and grounds:

 

Meanwhile, ust a short drive from Sacramento is Preston Castle, also known as Preston School of Industry, which has it’s own past history of abuse and trauma, as detailed in SacBee.com.

A Poem For Your Complicated Valentine’s Day

shallow focus photo of pink ceramic roses

I do not love you except because I love you

by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it’s you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.

Between the Lines Book Club: Nickel Boys Discussion Questions

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club pick is Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. We will discuss the book in person at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on Saturday, Feb 22, 2020.

Here are some questions to consider while you read the book:

  1. How does Elwood keep his sense of humanity? How does Turner? Talk about the role the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr play in the book.
  2. How do the boys and other people around them help them be resilient where others are not?
  3. One school of literary thought believes that the injustices and tragedies done to others must be brought to light and that this promotes social justice. Other feel that it promotes a kind of “misery porn” in which certain types of characters are permanently locked in miserable stories. What did you think about the painful content of this book?
  4. Why does Turner take Elwood with him?
  5. Why does the author keep the identity of the person living out an adult life in New York City a secret for so much of the book?
  6. MLK Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Does the author think that this is true? Do you? Talk about the impact of the last paragraph, as well as the closing of the school.

The following questions are from the publisher:

1. In the prologue, the narrator observes that after the truth about Nickel Academy comes out, “even the most innocent scene – a mess hall or the football field – came out sinister, no photographic trickery necessary.” Can you think of a time in your life when discovering the history of a place (a particular building, a statue, a historical landmark, etc.) dramatically changed your perception of it?
2. Elwood says that both he and Yolanda King “woke to the world,” or discovered racism, at six years old. How old were you when you became aware of racism and inequality? How do you think this experience is different for different people?
3. While in the infirmary, Elwood reads a pamphlet about Nickel that details the contributions the school has made to the community, including bricks from the brick-making machine “propping up buildings all over Jackson County.” What do you think of the ways that the wider community seemed to benefit from labor performed by Nickel students? Do you see any historical or modern-day parallels to this symbiotic relationship?
4. One student, Jaimie, is half-Mexican and constantly shuffled between the “white” and “colored” sections of Nickel Academy. Why do you think the author included a character with Jaimie’s ethnic identity in this story?
5. One of Elwood’s takeaways from Dr. King’s speeches is the importance of maintaining one’s dignity in the face of oppression. Is Elwood’s decision to escape (and risk the consequences of capture) rooted in the realization that he can no longer maintain his dignity in a place like Nickel?
6. At one point, the narrator writes that “laughter knocked out a few bricks from the wall of segregation, so tall and so wide.” Does humor truly lighten the burden for the boys? Or is it merely one of the very few things that can’t be taken away from them?
7. Who do you think was the true “villain” of the story? The teachers? The school itself? Something or someone else?

Epic Movie Trailer

white mug

This month is bonkers y’all o expect light content on Mondays. Some of you may already have seen this epic movie trailer composed of moments from movies from the last decade. I love these because they do such a beautiful job of revealing the magic of movies – even bad ones. Rock on!

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Nickel Boys

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club pick is Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. We will discuss the book in person at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on Saturday, Feb 22, 2020.

To get us started, here’s a great discussion from Literary Hub. Generally this book got great reviews – but not everyone liked it. In their series “Point/Counterpoint,” Parul Sehgal praises the book, while Clive Davis call it a “misery memoir.” Read their perspectives, and tell us what you think!

January, by William Carlos Williams

green pine trees covered with fogs under white sky during daytimeThank you to poets.org for sending January out with some bluster.

January

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
                                  Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
                                  And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.