Faculty-Student Book Club holds first meeting of the year to discuss Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys”
An enlightened discussion, an intriguing novel and cookies were the ingredients that made up the first faculty-student book club meeting of the year.
This is the second year Cathy Evans, the director of libraries, and John Nichols, upper school chemistry and engineering teacher, have teamed up to give the school the faculty-student book club. “The Nickel Boys” was the book chosen for the first quarter. The first meeting was held in the Weir Study on Oct. 17.
Evans and Nichols started by showing a PBS interview with the author, Colson Whitehead. He stated, “I wanted to focus on the boys,” when asked why he chose realism as the writing style for this book, as opposed to the science fiction genre of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Underground Railroad.” Whitehead also talked about how realism felt like the right tool to portray this story and that impacted how the reader saw the story. The meeting’s discussion focused on how real the story felt and how it made one see the story in a different light.
A fiction based on the real abuses of The Dozier, Florida, School for Boys, “The Nickel Boys” walks the reader through Elwood Curtis’ journey to survive not only The Nickel Academy but the traumas he must live with after he graduates. Upon first glance, Colson Whitehead’s novel is about an abusive school and the boys that attended, but it is so much more. The book deals with race, social justice, abuse and trauma, and while the book is fiction, it is grounded in the very harsh truth of The Dozier, Florida, School for Boys.
Rev. Katherine Bush’s (‘93) words perfectly describe the discussion: “Fiction changes people.” The novel is emotional, realistic and harsh with most at the meeting admitting they shed tears while reading. The topics shifted from personal connections with characters, to the grounding reality of the story, to the corruption within the justice system, to social prejudice and how the story relates to events in 2019.
Teresa Jenkins, who had spoken at chapel that same day about being the Director of Support, Diversity and Inclusion, said she related to the book’s main characters and their emotions as a woman of color and propelled the discussion in an insightful direction that made attendees want to pick up the book again.
Charlie LaMountian (9) made comments about how the story jumped off the page for her after she saw photos from the Dozier School excavation during the PBS News video.
The group was rather small, consisting of Evans, Nichols, Rev. Bush, Jenkins, Neva Bowers, middle school French teacher, LaMountian and myself. However, many who did not attend the meeting made comments about how they were still reading the book and did not want the ending to be spoiled. Knowing this, Nichols gave hints that a “round two” might be held for “The Nickel Boys.”
While the reality of a “round two” discussion is uncertain, Nichols also mentioned that he would be announcing the club’s second book closer to Thanksgiving or Winter Break and the meeting would be held in January.
Like at all faculty-student book club meetings, there will be cookies.
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