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The Nickel Boys (Winner 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)  By  cover art

The Nickel Boys (Winner 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

By: Colson Whitehead
Narrated by: JD Jackson, Colson Whitehead
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Interview: Colson Whitehead shares why he was called to examine the horrific activities in one Florida reform school through the eyes of a young black boy in his follow-up to the award-winning Underground Railroad.

Pulitzer Prize-Winner Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys Uses Fiction To Confront A Tragic Past.
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  • The Nickel Boys (Winner 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
  • Pulitzer Prize-Winner Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys Uses Fiction To Confront A Tragic Past.

Publisher's summary

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER NATIONAL BESTSELLER • This follow-up to The Underground Railroad brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. • "One of the most gifted novelists in America today." —NPR

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.

Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers and “should further cement Whitehead as one of his generation's best" (Entertainment Weekly).

Look for Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Crook Manifesto, coming soon!

©2019 Colson Whitehead (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION • New York Times Bestseller • Longlisted for The National Book Award • Winner of The Kirkus Prize • Winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction • One of Publishers Weekly's 10 Best Books of the Year

"A necessary read." —President Barack Obama

"This is a powerful book by one of America's great writers. . . . Without sentimentality, in as intense and finely crafted a book as you'll ever read, Whitehead tells a story of American history that won’t allow you to see the country in the same way again." —Toronto Star

"Colson Whitehead continues to make a classic American genre his own. . . . The narration is disciplined and the sentences plain and sturdy, oars cutting into water. Every chapter hits its marks. . . . Whitehead comports himself with gravity and care, the steward of painful, suppressed histories; his choices on the page can feel as much ethical as aesthetic. The ordinary language, the clear pane of his prose, lets the stories speak for themselves. . . . Whitehead has written novels of horror and apocalypse; nothing touches the grimness of the real stories he conveys here" —The New York Times

Featured Article: The Best Historical Fiction Audiobooks


Often based on real people, events, and scenarios, historical fiction gives us the opportunity to learn about worlds and times we will never experience while introducing fascinating characters and stories set in their midst. Sometimes, the genre can even give us a peek into hidden storylines that routinely go unmentioned in traditional history books, showing us that those of ages past are perhaps not so different from ourselves.

Editor's Pick

He’s done it again
"Nobody does historical fiction like Colson Whitehead. His Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Underground Railroad knocked us all out in 2016 and I’m pretty sure The Nickel Boys is on that same trajectory. Based on a real reformatory school and set in the last years of Jim Crow, this story focuses on Elwood Curtis, a young black man trying to survive the horrors that go on within the grounds of The Nickel Academy—an institution more akin to a torturous prison than the academic institution it’s been advertised as. What keeps him going? The words of his hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a belief that it will get better. The Nickel Boys is a beautiful and devastating story that gives a voice to the boys who were abused and killed at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys all those years ago."
Aaron S., Audible Editor