AfterClass

Hear from Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke, NBCT, about why she is looking forward to discussing Colson Whitehead's "The Nickel Boys" with Arizona educators.

Apr 12, 2021

Spend an hour with Arizona K12 Center Executive Director Kathy Wiebke and other Arizona educators this June to discuss the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

In The Nickel Boys, Whitehead tells a story of abuse at a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida that ultimately becomes a story of perseverance, dignity, and redemption. This story is based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years.

The Executive Director’s Book Club will be discussing The Nickel Boys on Wednesday, June 2, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. online. Go here to register for the event. If you register by May 5, we’ll mail you a copy of the book straight to your home!

Below, Wiebke shares why she selected The Nickel Boys for the book club and what she’s looking forward to discussing with others.

Why did you choose this book for the next book club?

Choosing The Nickel Boys was very deliberate. Like many people, I have been trying to come to an understanding about racism in America. I remember two years ago hearing Cornelius Minor speak about his own experiences. My heart ached when I heard his stories and those of others. I walked away from that particular event determined to learn more and develop a deeper understanding. I reached out to Cornelius and, in doing so, displayed a level of naivete and ignorance. Cornelius provided me a list of books to read. The Nickel Boys was almost an afterthought but the passion in his voice when he said, “You have to read The Nickel Boys” was all I needed.

I chose this book for my book club because I think we all need to come to a deeper understanding about race in America and the injustices that too many have endured. I realize I have led a privileged life and if I don’t take time to learn, understand, and speak the truth, I am guilty of perpetuating these injustices.

What are you looking forward to discussing with others about this book?

This story is based on a real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years in the era of Jim Crow laws. Whitehead uses imagination and empathy to make this story real. It is rich in history and speaks to an era that should be behind us but is still very real today. This is a powerful story that provides an honest portrayal of racism and inequality. 

The challenge of our June 2 gathering will be containing our conversation to only one hour.

How do you think this book might speak to teachers especially?

This book will resonate with teachers as we know that students of color face a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions than white students. We know that Black and Latino students are punished more severely than white students for the same infractions. We can’t change things we don’t talk about or acknowledge.

Any additional thoughts to share about The Nickel Boys?

It is not everyday we read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that was named one of TIME’s best books of the decade. This will be a great way to end the school year.

Register by May 5 to receive The Nickel Boys in the mail and to join the Executive Director’s Book Club for the discussion on Wednesday, June 2, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. online. Register here.

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