Title: Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
Book Beginnings quote:
I read somewhere that names
penetrate the core of our being,
and I suppose, this is
as good a time as any to confess
my name is not the only lie
I've ever lived with, but Nikki is
the first invention for which
I accept full responsibility.
THE SCENT OF PURPLE
outside my window.
Never knew purple
could smell so good.
Comments: Ordinary Hazards is a memoir written by YA author Nikki Grimes. It is mostly written in verse. She had a traumatic childhood but knew that she finally had to expose her good and bad memories to the air. In her author's note, Grimes writes, "A memoir is tricky business. Unlike an autobiography, a memoir's focus is on truth, not facts." Ever talk to a sibling about a shared event? They will remember things differently than you. No one is wrong. Both know a truth about the situation from their own point of view. Though the story is fairly heartbreaking, I am still loving the poetry and it is a fast read. "The Naming" quote is just the first stanza of a longer poem. "The Scent of Purple" is a complete poem and the only thing on page 56. Hence, the quick read.
Review: Ordinary Hazards won a Printz Honor last month when the ALA Youth Media Awards were handed out. It hadn't really been on my radar but it should have been. Nikki Grimes grew up in New York City. Her mother, who battled with schizophrenia and alcoholism, was an unreliable parent. Her father, a musician, was out of her life for several years. Fortunately for Grimes she was assigned a very loving, supportive foster situation. It was while she lived in this foster home that she wrote her first poem, at age six, and has been writing every since. She has published many books for children and young adults. She has also won lots of awards. Of her many titles the one she likes best is "Poet".
When she decided to write a memoir of her early years she knew it would be tough because her childhood was so traumatic. She had many holes in her memory because of this trauma but with the help of her sister and a childhood friend she was able to piece together her story, written in a series of poems. The book is achingly lovely and heartbreaking, hopeful and frustrating. For any teen who is afraid to reach for their dreams because of their life situations, this is a must-read. Nikki may not have had a supportive mother, but she found adults and friends in other quarters to help her reach her goal of becoming a writer.