Like all Nikki Grimes's award-winning work for children, this title is written in highly readable verse and delivers a relatable message characterized by pathos and resilience. Grimes describes her tumultuous childhood from infancy to high school years with her alcoholic, schizophrenic mother, her gambling-addicted musician father, and her protective older sister, Carol. From an early age, writing is not just a refuge but a life-saving outlet for her. Writing sustains Grimes through years of neglect, foster care, and sexual abuse. Though she doesn't refrain from revealing the ugly underbelly of her life with straightforward honesty, she intersperses the traumatic experiences with glimmers of light: the string of years with the Buchanans, a kind foster family in Ossining, New York; the academic accolades she received for her poetry; the eventual nurturing of her father who schooled her in African American history; the support and encouragement of her beloved sister, good friends, and caring teachers who challenged her and built up her self-esteem. Somehow, instead of being a victim of sad circumstances, Grimes triumphs over an upbringing that is virtually devoid of consistency and attention. She calls her writing a "magic trick." It certainly was magical for Grimes, and this book is an homage to the fortifying effect of written expression. School counselors can use this text as bibliotherapy for students in similar situations. This book can also act as mentor text in classroom lessons on memoir writing or when teaching confessional poetry.
Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir
Author(s): Nikki Grimes
Publisher: Wordsong (Boyds Mills Press)
Copyright Year: 2019
Reviewer: Bernadette Cooke
Rating: Highly Recommended
Grade (as stated by Reviewer/SLC): 6-12
Review Date: October 1, 2019
Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night - and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki's notebooks were her most enduing companions. In this accessible and inspiring memoir that will resonate with young readers and adults alike, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.
Media Type: Book, eBook
# Pages: 325