March 2020


By David McCullough

Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood (Curtis) is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college.  But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960's, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future.  Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it  provides "physical, intellectual, and moral training" so that the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men."

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors... and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back".  Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you."  His friend Turner thinks that Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.... The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades.*

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 


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*From the book jacket

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