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Ordinary Hazards

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In her own voice, author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a memoir in verse. 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 In her own voice, author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a memoir in verse. 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 memoir, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.


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In her own voice, author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a memoir in verse. 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 In her own voice, author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a memoir in verse. 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 memoir, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.

30 review for Ordinary Hazards

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    Read this young adult poetry in motion memoir in between longer books this nonfiction reading year. I read Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade two years ago, in which she inspires Bronx high school students to enjoy their English curriculum through poetry and other free form genres. The current trend of writers Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Grimes to use poetry as a vehicle to connect complex themes to young adult readers has lead me to enjoy young adult literature marketed to people of Read this young adult poetry in motion memoir in between longer books this nonfiction reading year. I read Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade two years ago, in which she inspires Bronx high school students to enjoy their English curriculum through poetry and other free form genres. The current trend of writers Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Grimes to use poetry as a vehicle to connect complex themes to young adult readers has lead me to enjoy young adult literature marketed to people of color. Although these writers do not necessarily have me in mind when writing, I have enjoyed the poetic, prose, onomatopoeic writing from these writers, so when I found out that Grimes had come out with a memoir, I knew it was one I had to read before the year was out. Grimes had her childhood fractured by abusive parents and caregivers, details which must have been painful for her to relive here. Ordinary Hazards pieces back together parts of that lost childhood from 1950-1967 and allows Grimes to reclaim her memories. Grimes and her older sister Carol lived with their mother, an alcoholic and schizophrenic, for the first five years of Nikki’s life until she was unable to care for the girls. She then pawned them off on caregivers, one of whom would lock them in a closet. Their father, a starving artist, claimed to not know how to raise girls and their grandmother did not want to be a parent again. Nikki and Carol were placed in foster care until one or both of their parents could find stability in their lives. Nikki flourished under the care of the Buchanan family and has maintained a lifelong relationship with her foster brother Kendall. Yet, as loved as she felt, Nikki longed to be reunited with her sister and one of her parents. At age nine, she finally rejoined her mother and a stepfather. Ordinary Hazards was gut wrenching at time. Nikki’s teenaged years coincided with the turbulent 1960s. Her mother was off and on alcohol and in an out of Bellevue Hospital for the rest of her life. By middle school Nikki found she had a gift for writing and her father introduced her to a who’s who of writers of color all over New York City. Nikki kept journals in her apartments and had to gather them each time her mother decided to move, usually in the middle of a school term. Nikki’s stepfather was physically abusive, scarring her for years, and Carol became her lifeline. Finding solace in her journals and arts, it was only under the guidance of a high school English teacher that Nikki began to flourish. While there is no replacement for a parent, Nikki found adults who helped to nurture her into adulthood. Nikki Grimes has won the Coretta Scott King as well as other awards for her work. Like her other books for young adult readers, Ordinary Hazards combines poetry and prose to make the story accessible to a generation of readers raised on hip hop and other art forms. Although in the end uplifting, Ordinary Hazards is not an easy book to get through. Nikki suffered both physical and emotional trauma as a child so it is a wonder to me that she persevered to become the prolific writer that she is today. Like many other writers I have read about through their memoirs, Nikki found comfort in books and her local library, highlighting A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and later Michaux’s Bookstore in the Bronx. There she was exposed to writers of color and found role models whose work she used as a guideline as she navigated through the pitfalls of life. As 2019 winds down I have found that I will always take the time to read a memoir. Through these personal memories, I am piecing together the fabric of America and what makes this country unique one person at a time. Nikki Grimes’ Ordinary Hazards shows of the grit and determination of one girl from New York who overcame the lot thrown at her in life to become a prolific writer. She should only continue to create fluid poetry and positive memories. 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Many of Grimes' painful childhood experiences are relatable, giving her memoir a universal edge. It feels odd to explore such complex issues - abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, abandonment - with so few words, yet Ordinary Hazards is one sucker punch after another, giving testament to Grimes' exceptional talent with language. WILDLIFE Home was never a safe place, as my sister, Carol, tells it. Forget the Wild West of inner-city streets, bullets buzzing by on the occasional Friday night, Many of Grimes' painful childhood experiences are relatable, giving her memoir a universal edge. It feels odd to explore such complex issues - abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, abandonment - with so few words, yet Ordinary Hazards is one sucker punch after another, giving testament to Grimes' exceptional talent with language. WILDLIFE Home was never a safe place, as my sister, Carol, tells it. Forget the Wild West of inner-city streets, bullets buzzing by on the occasional Friday night, propelled by a deadly combo of alcohol and apathy. I'm talking about inside, any day of the week. Sis paints the picture: I'd be tucked into a dresser drawer, higher off the floor than my crib, supposedly out of reach of the rats that roamed the rooms after dark. I can't quite remember the hardness of the dresser drawer, only the softness of my blanket. I don't recall coming nose-to-nose with any rat, but there were mornings I did see an empty plastic bag on the kitchen table where a loaf of bread used to be, and the trail of breadcrumbs across the linoleum, a broken line of evidence. - OCTOBER SURPRISE Birthday celebrations in foster care are rare. Who bothers about the day you were born? But when I turned seven, Mrs. B baked a chocolate cake with buttercream icing. I don't recall anyone baking me a birthday cake before. Maybe that's why I baptized my first slice with tears.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    There's something about memoirs written in verse form that I find particularly appealing. There isn't as much detail and yet so much can be derived from a perfect metaphor, or from the feelings that come through the writer's words. Nikki Grimes wrote a beautiful and powerful memoir of her childhood. Her mother was paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic, her father often not around, and she and her sister spent many years in the foster care system. She describes how she felt being passed around, There's something about memoirs written in verse form that I find particularly appealing. There isn't as much detail and yet so much can be derived from a perfect metaphor, or from the feelings that come through the writer's words. Nikki Grimes wrote a beautiful and powerful memoir of her childhood. Her mother was paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic, her father often not around, and she and her sister spent many years in the foster care system. She describes how she felt being passed around, the loneliness of being without her sister, the confusion of why her parents were the way they were. Early on she discovered writing as a way to make sense of and cope with her feelings, and she recreates her childhood notebooks in this memoir. It is both painful and hopeful, a testament to the human spirit's ability to overcome.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    This verse doesn’t work for me at all:( ____________ Printz Honor 2020 I know only one person who's read it. A very obscure title.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Hankins

    "It's a long story,/ but I am a poet./I can cut it short." (from the Prologue to ORDINARY HAZARDS) Full Disclosure: I've been sitting with Nikki Grimes's memoir, ORDINARY HAZARDS, and I have been waiting for months to write a review. The problem now? We are one month away from your sitting with the memoir and experiencing what early readers like Lester Laminack and Ed Spicer and I have been sitting with for most of 2019. I can tell you with great joy (and pride) that Nikki Grimes is a friend. No. "It's a long story,/ but I am a poet./I can cut it short." (from the Prologue to ORDINARY HAZARDS) Full Disclosure: I've been sitting with Nikki Grimes's memoir, ORDINARY HAZARDS, and I have been waiting for months to write a review. The problem now? We are one month away from your sitting with the memoir and experiencing what early readers like Lester Laminack and Ed Spicer and I have been sitting with for most of 2019. I can tell you with great joy (and pride) that Nikki Grimes is a friend. No. She does not call me. We don't have lunch. I sense we might if we lived closer together. Or we might not. To give one another space to be, to poem, to make, and to garden. We are friends in the way that you know someone in this world sees you and stops by now and then to appreciate an idea. To push on a thought. To identify a random flower that has popped up in a garden. To tell you that you cannot read, early, the body of a speech to come and reminds you that there is a an ask and an answer. And then there might be the ask too much coupled with a need to wait. ORDINARY HAZARDS is born of a need to wait. To wait for the writer to present his, her, or their story with the sensitivity to self and to others and to tell that truth, even in light of sensitivity and truth, to tell the story completely. Heartedly. In light of hazards most ordinary. Nikki's truth is now here in front of us. What will we do now? ORDINARY HAZARDS is an important book. Not for what it reveals (yes, it does reveal), but for what it illuminates. Our best novelists for young people today present young people within the gamut of their daily lives, their hopes, their dreams, their concerns, and their obstacles. For her presence within the world of upper elem, middle grade, and young adult literature, it is authors like Nikki Grimes who have placed themselves in the spaces and the shelves. They have fought for the classroom space with their work over a number of years. They realize some successes here and there with this title or that one, but even these celebrate anniversaries and are repackaged which always makes me wonder if the re-packaging of back titles actually serve to remind us how old these books are (even in the presence of trumpeting books from the canon that are celebrating fifty or more years and still have a solid place in the canon). Nikki Grimes has been illuminating the experience of the young to the young adult and has earned, by way of her deft story telling and rendering in verse ideas that would take prose pages and pages to express. She has a corner of the room sharing space with Walter Dean Myers and Sharon Draper and Rita Williams Garcia and Sharon Flake and Angela Johnson and Jacqueline Woodson and Christopher Paul Curtis. She is an anchor within the community of writers of color who write for readers. And, now, Nikki Grimes works to make room for many more writers in an age calling for (and necessarily so) the need for diverse books and own voices. We desperately need the new voices. And they are ringing true. All the while. . .Nikki is still here doing the work. With ORDINARY HAZARDS, Nikki steps from the corners of her own experiences, shakes herself free from the lists of "authors you should know" to be seen. And to be known. With ORDINARY HAZARDS, Nikki stays true to the readers who have followed here to this new place of sharing her truth while she welcomes in new readers with a revealing look at her young and young adult life. And, ORDINARY HAZARDS will find itself in places perhaps Nikki's has not found audience. . .yet. As a adult memoir. As a collection of poetry. With ORDINARY HAZARDS, Nikki positions her personal story alongside titles like Margarita Engle's ENCHANTED AIR. It is my hope that the Lee Bennett Hopkins committee is seeing this new book. From the first page Nikki centers memoir as a genre that presents itself own sense of irony: to tell one's story in a way that might be of interest to another (when the default of any personal story is that it should be of interest to another person. . .Humanity 101). Nikki presents a definition for memoir: "a work of imperfect memory/in which you meticulously/capture all that you can recall,/and use informed imagination/to fill in what remains." "Informed imagination." A classroom teacher could have spent years in the classroom poring over the ideas presented by the experts in narrative writing and probably never have come upon, "informed imagination." "Filling in what remains" is the heart of ORDINARY HAZARDS. It centers the author and her experience and we, the reader, as a "reward" (perhaps) of staying with this author for a number of years to see all of the magic and wonder of her catalog illuminated, glowing now from the revealed truths of a life lived. And brought forward in stories we might share with young readers as a means of providing Rudine Sims Bishop's windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. In ORDINARY HAZARDS, Nikki comes to the gazing glass, reflected in the mirror of her past, to slide open the door to a time wherein her experiences are both sadly common and strangely uncommon all at once. And brings it all to us in her gift of verse. "Informed imagination." "The Naming" is the first poem from Book I of ORDINARY HAZARDS: "Nikki is/the first invention for which/I accept full responsibility." I am shortening a most powerful stanza here, but from the first words of the book, we see "ladders" to other works wherein the centering of the importance of names and how we get them are a theme. "The Naming" is quite possibly the best, quick, mentor text in exploring one's name that we have seen in some time and I do not doubt that this passage, the first poem within the book, will enter the canon for mentor texts in inviting students to write their narratives of nomenclature. Book One takes the readers from Nikki's birth in Harlem, 1950 and takes us through the first five years of her life. We meet mother and sister Carol. We also meet the personifications of paranoid schizophrenia and the "drowning" and the "war" to come that that will take its POWs in the persons of Nikki and Carol who will spend days in dark closets (from where we pull the title of the memoir). We learn about the child's belief in prayer and the cultures response to orphaned children. In my original notes, I wrote: "A Proper Introduction" appears on page 28, 10% which means that ORDINARY HAZARDS presents the urgency of time and place in front of the subject of the book." I wrote this note to remind myself that the sharing of macro, meso, and micro setting can be a powerful approach to knowing how we center the character, the poet. . .the memoirist. In her "proper introduction" what might be seen as self-deprecation is the poet's self-description that brings us closer to a figure we might have missed passing on the street. We won't miss her poring through these pages. Throughout the book, Nikki guides the reader through italicized vignettes called "Mystery of Memory." Here, Nikki continues to point back to "informed imagination" the way an expository writer might point evidence back to a thesis. In the first of these vignettes, Nikki implores, from her position as author and storyteller, for "order/logical sequences,/and smooth transitions." As I read this vignette, I think of what we ask from memoir for our student writers. Here, an accomplished, award-winning poet begs for a "modicum of skill." She asks, "Where is the chronology of a life/chaotic from the start?" Isn't this the question of memoir? Should it be as we approach the genre with our younger writers. To see Nikki Grimes struggle inside of this genre even as she is presenting it is a model of vulnerability that comes with the exploration and the exposition of a life. In Book Two, Nikki walks us through 1955-1960, a life spent with the Buchanan family. Here, our poet explores new family dynamics, checks the locks on doors to assure she will not be sealed up, mute a voice that will eventually help her to become a storyteller, befriends the largely-ignored dog who notices her, discovers lilacs (a connection she will share with a classroom teacher years later), and finds the power of a notebook. "Journey" is our introduction to Nikki's record keeping, even if incomplete and in need of the "filling in": the blank page/was the only place/I could make sense/of my life/or keep record of/each space/I called home. "The daily march of words/parading from my pen/kept me moving/forward." From this point on within ORDINARY HAZARDS we get glimpses of the notebook entries. The first depicting a revelation of the deeper parts of her foster matriarch. Small, short pieces carry a large load from the memoirist and, within the first, a jelly jar of lilacs elicit the response of love earnestly sought by Nikki in her first ten years of life. In Book Two, we see a world of words begin to come to life for the author. The origins of WORDS WITH WINGS? Perhaps. And what we might hope for having fallen in love with this little book. Book Three takes us through three years of the author's life. In "Mystery of Memory #2," Nikki begins with "Trauma is a memory hog." We hope, removed from Nikki's experiences, that we might get a glimpse into the author's early school experiences. Perhaps we want Nikki to explore and to expose these moments that we, ourselves, have let slip into the memory loss that eventually becomes warm and fluid, but never solid. What we want from our poets many times is what we could not hold onto for ourselves. We make the writer, the poet, do this work. Nikki apologetically reveals the gaps here and ends this vignette: "I've bridge the gaps/with suspension cables/forged of steeling gratitude/for having survived my past/at all." As I revisit my notes from February's early reading of the book, I note that this is where I shared a Facebook message with Nikki and I agreed to slow the reading down considerably. I was walking along a suspension bridge now. Nikki keeps these lines tight so that they will not wiggle the walker too much in moving through the narrative. Nikki's memoir is our path and our safety net. Book Three brings Nikki home and the presentation of the text becomes a combination of poetry and prose, each giving and taking and adding to the other upon the page as Nikki presents neighborhood struggles, the call to be part of gang politics, the conflict between her innate gift for story keeping and story telling measured against her having to play catch-up at midterm from entering class and coursework later in the year (later, the poet who had to once play catch-up becomes a one who would be awarded full-tuition to schools she would decline and schools she would ultimately enter and within which she would thrive). The library becomes a safe haven. A library card becomes a passport. We can live through. We can learn of. We can breathe. We can bleed. A cigarette burn a reminder of all that can be taken from us in a flash. From the flammable. We can live. We can lose. Ordinary Hazards. The un-ordinary hazard. The extraordinary hazard is also revealed in "Broken" from Book Three. This is a particularly painful revelation from the author and it draws from me a sort of wish (another ordinary hazard of the survivor) that all I had in common with this author was a love for lilacs. As the "books" of ORDINARY HAZARDS advance the narrative, the mystery of memory becomes more "mastery" like as Nikki recalls the reunion and deepening of her awareness of what is happening to and around her. Her exposure to learning and to literature and to life are enveloped now in social unrest in response to assassinations. Anchored in fundamental literature introduced to her by her father that will help to moor the author to the literature she will bring back to readers in the future. A page turner, readers will be tempted to move quickly through the book. Nikki teases this response out of the reader whose natural curiosity will want to know more. As this reader learns more, he, she, or they are forced to pause, an most ironic inner response to "tell me more." There is so much to share in a life. Nikki's life shared in ORDINARY HAZARDS make it a natural "ladder" for her other books. For books. For the power of narrative as a means of showcasing situations set to harm, to kill, that become spaces for allowing survival to settle. Nikki Grimes is a treasure of elementary, middle grade, and young adult literature. She takes her place now in memoir, a place carefully-considered in the presentation of the vulnerable child who becomes the venerable author/poet. She continues to give to us from her craft, her continued explorations of what it means to create and to curate art, and in her encouragement of classroom teachers, like this one, to consider story, in all of its forms. And informing sources. Grimes's imagination is a revelation. And her revelation is an inspiration. Inspiration. . .can drive adoption. Of texts. And, subsequently, of stories. As soon as this classroom teacher can make it happen, ORDINARY HAZARDS goes on the classroom reading list for Room 407.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bange

    Note: Reviewed from an ARC. If you are to read one book this year, this should be the one you should pick up. Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir is an amazing peek into the formative years of poet Nikki Grimes. Not only does this work detail her faith, resiliency, and strength of will, but it also informs on her creative mind and writing process. In this free verse memoir, Grimes tells of her childhood – from her birth in Harlem through the time she finally leaves her mother’s chaotic home and finds Note: Reviewed from an ARC. If you are to read one book this year, this should be the one you should pick up. Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir is an amazing peek into the formative years of poet Nikki Grimes. Not only does this work detail her faith, resiliency, and strength of will, but it also informs on her creative mind and writing process. In this free verse memoir, Grimes tells of her childhood – from her birth in Harlem through the time she finally leaves her mother’s chaotic home and finds stability after moving in with her older sister, Carol. She opens up about many of the traumas she experienced while living with an alcoholic mother who struggled with mental illness: rejection, abuse by caregivers, racism, rape, gang violence, and her father’s death. She balances these events with uplifting experiences and people: living with a loving foster care family, a teacher who encourages her to write – expecting no less than Nikki’s best work, going to the Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, singing in the choir at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, discovering Michaux’s (bookstore), making life-long friendships, and the love, support, and encouragement from her sister and father. Through her father, Grimes was exposed to some of the most important authors, musicians and artists in Harlem at the time. It was faith, hope and love that carried her spirit through a difficult childhood. The book is subdivided into four sections called “Books”. Each covers different time periods of her life, from 1950-55, 1955-60, 1960-63, and 1963-66. Since her mother destroyed the many journals she kept as a child, Grimes had to rely on the memories of her friends, her sister, and her own painful remembrances in order to reconstruct this free verse masterpiece of strength and resilience. She includes some poems named “Notebook” sprinkled throughout, ostensibly to recreate some of her journal entries destroyed by her mother. One could use many adjectives to describe her childhood journey – heartbreaking, horrifying, harrowing – but none of these words includes the depth of bravery, gumption, faith, and external support that Grimes leaned on in order to deal with such a relentlessly excruciating childhood. Told as no one else could, Grimes makes readers feel each horrible turn experienced and the joy felt when things went “her way”. A must read for Nikki Grimes fans! Highly Recommended for grades 9-up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Extraordinary writing that touches every part of the heart and soul. Grimes' poetry is exquisite and there isn't a single poem in this book that wasn't like taking a master class in writing. Every emotion and experience becomes a part of the reader. Even more extraordinary is the story of searing childhood experiences that Grimes managed to surmount, learn from and triumph over. Inspiring is an over-used word but this memoir is inspiring.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A brutal and powerful verse memoir about growing up in an unstable family dealing with schizophrenia, absenteeism, sexual assault, and the foster care system. But through it all, Nikki's solace in writing comes through, as does her commitment to being a survivor. Messy and challenging and moving and ultimately everything a Printz book is. (I'm so curious how the committee talked about this one and SHOUT, since they have many parallels, not just their format, and both are extremely moving).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kris Patrick

    Worthy of its many starred reviews and awards and more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

    Breathtaking lyric memoir. Extraordinary life, extraordinary writing. Nikki Grimes wanted to write about the dark moments of her life, but she also wanted to write about the light, which she knew could be harder to find. Told in a variety of poetry styles, Grimes' voice comes through clear and strong. An inspiring work for anyone who uses words to find a way through. I applaud this book. Utterly compelling and well-crafted.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Walter

    The Legacy Award winning author has written a moving memoir of her traumatic childhood and adolescence, told in some of her most eloquent verse. She is a survivor.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    ORDINARY HAZARDS is a gorgeously written poetic memoir that is at times difficult to read, but also so filled with love and hope.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    Fantastic! Belongs in all high school libraries.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary Thomas

    A FANTASTIC memoir that should be added to all high school collections!! Beautiful writing. Highly recommend this one! Out in October.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir--I tried to fix title/ISBN glitch but couldn't. Poignant, beautiful, and even more meaningful because of a wonderful dinner I had with Grimes several years ago at TLA.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    A page turner and powerful in the same family as stories like Jacqueline Woodson, Laurie Halse Anderson, etc. that turn pain into beauty and provide thoughtful social commentary through their own experiences and perspective. Grimes goes to great length to discuss what a memoir is and isn't so that the reader knows what they're getting and it's perfect. Grimes' story is a tragic one that hopefulness had to come from likely and unlikely sources to allow her to flourish because so many of the A page turner and powerful in the same family as stories like Jacqueline Woodson, Laurie Halse Anderson, etc. that turn pain into beauty and provide thoughtful social commentary through their own experiences and perspective. Grimes goes to great length to discuss what a memoir is and isn't so that the reader knows what they're getting and it's perfect. Grimes' story is a tragic one that hopefulness had to come from likely and unlikely sources to allow her to flourish because so many of the adults in her life were unreliable. She had an alcoholic and schizophrenic mother, a lackadaisical musician father, a sexually abusive boyfriend to the mother, emotionally and physically abusive foster parents (save for one family that left an indelible mark on her), and many more people including a psychologist and some social workers who thought she was a lost case because she was a black foster child. "Met Lori today. She lives down the street. / Says she wants to be my friend. / Didn't know how much I was missing one until then..." "Birthday celebrations / in foster care / are rare. / Who bothers about / the day you were born? / But when I turned seven, / Mrs. B. baked / a chocolate cake / with buttercream icing. / I don't recall / anyone baking me / a birthday cake before. / Maybe that's why / I baptized my first slice / with tears." "Library Card / A magic pass / I used to climb into / other people's skin / any old time / I needed." "Think food, / and nourishment / comes to mind, / but we all know / it's so much more. / One bite of baked pineapple / and my tongue sticks / to the roof of memory, / gluing me to the last moment / I savored a slice of / pineapple upside-down cake / at my grandmother's kitchen table. / Each tangy morsel / transports me , / and I am thirteen again, / relishing a culinary treat / sweet with the hours / it took Grandma to make / this Maraschino cherry-topped, / gooey offering of love." "A voice inside / whispered urgently: / You cannot blossom / in this soil. / I knew it was true." Her sister was as much of a rock as she could be and Grimes used her words to keep hope alive and speak truth to power. There is so much to unpack about family ties, relationships, parenting, mental illness, socioeconomics, growing up, and more and the verse makes it intensely powerful because Grimes can weave those words. Absolutely will be recommending this one like my life depended on it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ledayne

    As an aspiring young writer, Grimes told her mentor, "I want to write books about some of the darkness I've seen, real stories about real people, you know? But I also want to write about the light, because I've seen that, too. That place of light -- it's not always easy to get to, but it's there. It's there." In the author's notes at the end of the book, she writes, "I hope my story helps you to live more fully into your own." The best I can say is that she has done what she set out to do. This As an aspiring young writer, Grimes told her mentor, "I want to write books about some of the darkness I've seen, real stories about real people, you know? But I also want to write about the light, because I've seen that, too. That place of light -- it's not always easy to get to, but it's there. It's there." In the author's notes at the end of the book, she writes, "I hope my story helps you to live more fully into your own." The best I can say is that she has done what she set out to do. This beautiful memoir conveyed through poetry makes both darkness and light achingly real -- the way our relationships both cut and heal, the way one friendship or one mentor or even one comment from a stranger can change the trajectory of a life, the way some of us are able to find the light and others never do. This lovely story does indeed help me to live into my own. I am grateful to have read this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paulette

    Every year as the youth literary awards are announced, I try to read the offerings. This memoir written by accomplished youth author Nikki Grimes is outstanding and won the Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature. Her story is told in free verse and ponders the reliability of memory, but still communicates the emotions and trials of a difficult childhood. It is the fierce connection of sisters, and the heroes who help guide this budding writer, from kind foster parents, librarians, Every year as the youth literary awards are announced, I try to read the offerings. This memoir written by accomplished youth author Nikki Grimes is outstanding and won the Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature. Her story is told in free verse and ponders the reliability of memory, but still communicates the emotions and trials of a difficult childhood. It is the fierce connection of sisters, and the heroes who help guide this budding writer, from kind foster parents, librarians, teachers, and even flawed but loving family members. A beautiful story of resilience and survival that will make you weep and dance for joy at the beauty of the skillfully written word. Highly recommended!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    And now I know Nikki Grimes had the kind of childhood that would have crushed many. Her hazards may have been "ordinary," but the sheer number of them, the accumulation of tumult and obstacles and trauma, make her success an extraordinary triumph. The mere facts of her narrative are compelling and moving. Her telling of the story make it accessible and exquisite. It's a long story, but I'm a poet. / I can cut it short. she writes in the prologue. And she does. Her words take this young life of And now I know Nikki Grimes had the kind of childhood that would have crushed many. Her hazards may have been "ordinary," but the sheer number of them, the accumulation of tumult and obstacles and trauma, make her success an extraordinary triumph. The mere facts of her narrative are compelling and moving. Her telling of the story make it accessible and exquisite. It's a long story, but I'm a poet. / I can cut it short. she writes in the prologue. And she does. Her words take this young life of struggle and pain and make it beautiful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Oh, this story. I’m going to have to buy a copy when it comes out in paperback and highlight all of the beautiful lines I want to hold on to and go back to read again and again. Sometimes I had to stop reading and take a break and sometimes I didn’t want to keep reading. One of my favorite lines is from Grimes’ sister, “The world will know the Grimes sisters.” We can only be so lucky this story has been shared.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    The difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that the first is about facts covering the author's entire life. Memoir is about our emotional truths and the experiences that help us to become the people we are. In her memoir, Nikki Grimes looks at those childhood memories not erased by the traumas she lived through, and how she found solace and strength in the written word, both her own writings and the books she read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Ordinary Hazards is a memoir written in verse by YA author Nikki Grimes. She had a very traumatic childhood so had trouble recalling a lot of memories from her childhood but what she did recall was often heartbreaking. Fortunately she had support from a foaster family, a teacher, friends, her father, a teacher, and her sister. This book won a Printz Honor last month. It deserved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Nikki Grimes memoir is a must-read. The books covers what she can remember of the incidents involving her childhood with an alcoholic and schizophrenic mother, a distant father and an abusive step father. The story is told in poetic prose and is just beautiful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alexa L

    An excellent start to the year! I’ve never been a big poetry fan, but Nikki Grimes always makes me believe I could be one!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shauna Yusko

    The writing!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    You know when you want to tag a book "award winners," but then you realize awards season hasn't started yet? Food for thought. Caution: this one's messy. It's also beautiful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Wow.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A memoir in verse that covers mental illness, foster care, sexual abuse and the trauma that steals memories of entire childhoods. Beautifully written. Want to read more Nikki Grimes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Powerful poetry.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maeve

    Nikki Grimes writes about her life growing up in New York as she embraces her love of writing.

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