The powerful and inspiring debut from Susan Nussbaum, the 2012 winner of Barbara Kingsolver's PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, invites us into a landscape populated with young people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by misfortune but whose voices resound with resilience, courage, and humor.
Inside the halls of ILLC, an institution for juveniles with disabilities, we discover a place that is deeply different from and yet remarkably the same as the world outside. Nussbaum crafts a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us. In this isolated place on Chicago's South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. It's in these alliances that the residents of this neglected community ultimately find the strength to bond together, resist their mistreatment, and finally fight back. And in the process, each is transformed.
Good Kings, Bad Kings
I put on my pink top that says BABY GIRL on the front and I put on different eye makeup because my other eye makeup got messed up from crying. I want to look good in case they got cameras. I put on some red, red lipstick that I'm keeping for Cheri when she comes back, if she does. I had a valentine Mia gave me that I saved up and I stuck that in my fanny pack. I didn't have nothing from Teddy or Pierre, so I wrote Teddy's name on my arm and put a heart around it, and I wrote Pierre's name on my other arm and drew a pencil like the one he stabbed Louie with. It didn't look like a pencil that much but it was a pencil. I took my chain I had bought at the hardware store and my lock from my locker at Hoover and put 'em in my bag hanging offa my chair, and I got my sign I made from under my bed. Then I went down the elevator and out the door. It was nice outside, kinda warm and sunny, and it felt like that feeling you get when it's Spring, but it is Spring ...
I have always been fascinated by first books. I have found Good Kings, Bad Kings, Susan Nussbaum’s first novel, enthralling, exciting, funny, infuriating, and bracing in turn. Nussbaum has not created a linear, plot-based book, but rather a mosaic out of the inter-relationships of individual lives, whether in conflict, in power struggles, or in love. This book mirrors the way our lives are lived, not in any straight line but in the choices and responses to each other in the particulars of our lives.
(Reviewed by Bob Sauerbrey).
Full Review (1148 words).
In 2012, Susan Nussbaum won the PEN/Bellwether for Socially Engaged Fiction. This award, which was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver, was created to "promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." The award is given to an author of a not yet published novel that typifies its principles. The award also raises some fascinating questions. What is the place of literature in addressing social issues? Can literature be an effective catalyst for social change? Can literature enlighten us about the potential dangers or benefits of scientific, aesthetic, or moral/ethical re-visioning of our place on the Earth and of our responsibilities within that?
Much fiction, ...
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