Today's releases include a novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead that finds two boys navigating a nightmarish reform school; Star Trek alum and activist George Takei recounts his family’s incarceration in two internment camps during World War II; and a category best of the month pick for those of you missing Game of Thrones...
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Based on a real school for boys that closed in Florida in 2011 after more than one hundred years in existence, Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Academy is the kind of institution that purports to rebrand bad boys into good young men. So in theory it should be a good place for Elwood, a young black man who, although he had planned to attend a nearby college, was caught unknowingly riding in a stolen car. But what happens inside Nickel Academy does not match its public image, and Elwood is about to learn that, no matter how idealistic or optimistic he is, his life is taking a very bad turn. He is lucky to meet Turner, who does not share Elwood’s idealism and who helps him to survive Nickel Academy. But what Elwood experiences there will never leave him. Set in the 1960s during Jim Crow, The Nickel Boys is both an enjoyable read and a powerful portrayal of racism and inequality that acts as a lever to pry against our own willingness to ignore it. —Chris Schluep
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Made famous via his role as Sulu in Star Trek, George Takei became a cultural phenomenon in the real world through his civil rights engagement and his support for democracy. Now, in his graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, Takei reveals the story of his family’s incarceration during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. A United States citizen—as was everyone in his family except his father, who had been living in the U.S. for decades—Takei was only 5 years old when the government forced his family to leave their home and possessions and move to a concentration camp along with hundreds of others. Takei pivots between showing through his child’s eyes the years in internment with expressing his later, more-adult understanding of how deeply his parents suffered during and after their imprisonment. Just as emotionally staggering is how Takei’s father maintained his faith in the democratic system while the larger government failed him. The straightforward illustrations make this graphic memoir a read comfortable for all ages, even as the memories depicted range from unsettling to infuriating. It would be easy to consider Takei’s story simply a colorful glimpse of the misbegotten past. But its power, like John Lewis’ March trilogy, burns in how it persuades the reader to consider how much we’ve really changed since Franklin D. Roosevelt and Earl Warren decided to imprison families based on unsupported fears. They Called Us Enemy also inspires readers to engage through democracy to insist that we treat fellow human beings with fairness and dignity. —Adrian Liang
The Rage of Dragons (The Burning) by Evan Winter
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for almost two hundred years. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine. Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war...Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people's only hope for survival.
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