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Ordinary Hazards by [Nikki Grimes]

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Ordinary Hazards Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 217 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"Ordinary Hazards is a gorgeous piece of writing that also serves as powerful inspiration for any reader who has struggled and sought grace. Grimes's triumph over adversity is matched only by her skill with the written word--her memoir is accessible to poetry enthusiasts and detractors alike, and will linger long after the final lines." -- Shelf Awareness, starred review

★ "With
Ordinary Hazards, Grimes delivers a memoir in the form of a powerful and inspiring collection of poems. She details her early life through adulthood, and she unabashedly explores the highs as well as the lows. Young adults will identify with and connect to the many challenges explored in Grimes’ work, which delves into issues of love, family, responsibility, belonging, finding your place in the world, and fighting the monsters you know—and the ones you don’t. The memoir has heartbreaking moments—even soul-crushing ones—that will make readers ache for young Grimes and teens grappling with similar circumstances. But inspiring moments bolster her raw, resonant story, showing that there is always light at the end of the darkest of tunnels." --Booklist, starred review

★ "Grimes potently conveys the way reading and writing can become ways not just to express oneself but to construct oneself, to articulate one’s identity, to map one’s mental and emotional territory. Readerly readers will find young Nikki inspiring company..." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

★ "As poetically written as Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming with a story as hard-hitting as Sapphire’s Push....the striking free-verse poems powerfully convey how a passion for writing fueled her will to survive and embrace her own resilience.... (a) must-read for aspiring writers." --The Horn Book, starred review

★ "Grimes presents a gripping memoir in verse constructed from imperfect recollections of the hardship and abuse she endured as a child. Underlining the idea that 'a memoir’s focus is on truth, not fact,' Grimes courageously invites readers to join her on a journey through the shadows of her past..."  -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "(W)ritten in highly readable verse and delivers a relatable message characterized by pathos and resilience... 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 (and it) can also act as mentor text in classroom lessons on memoir writing or when teaching confessional poetry." -- School Library Connection, starred review

"For award-winning children's and YA author Grimes, writing, faith, and determination were the keys to surviving her tumultuous childhood. Grimes recounts her story as a memoir in verse, writing with a poet's lyricism through the lens of memory fractured by trauma. Fans of her poetry and prose will appreciate this intimate look at the forces that shaped her as an artist and as a person determined to find the light in the darkest of circumstances. A raw, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting story of trauma, loss, and the healing power of words." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Grimes offers young adult readers the special treat of literary ingenuity in her new memoir... that doesn’t demand a time line.  This nontraditional memoir from a long-working and highly acclaimed author will speak deeply to young readers harboring their own interest in writing or otherwise squeezing art out of life’s spiky fruit." --
School Library Journal

“This book is... a gut-wrenching testimony of pain, loss, resilience, and grace. Nikki is open about her truth and wrote it to make it accessible to readers of all ages. This book will heal hearts and open a lot of eyes. It will keep some kids alive and it will wake up some adults. This powerful story, told with the music of poetry and the blade of truth, will help your heart grow.”
—Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak and Shout

Ordinary Hazards, Nikki Grimes has given us an intimate look into her life as a young person who found writing as a way to buoy herself in the choppy waters of her childhood. Giving us a glimpse into addiction, abandonment, foster care, and abuse, Grimes poetically guides us to her eventual acceptance and amazement. This is a testimony and a triumph.” 
Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down

"Life, as Nikki Grimes so well puts it, is full of ordinary hazard
s, only she creates and accepts them in poems. Sometimes you want to cry... sometimes to laugh... but always at all times are you glad you are alive and lived with it and through it. Ms. Grimes writes, but some of us sing, bake, or build buildings or play sports. These, too, can be hazardous. But none of them is ordinary.”
Nikki Giovanni, Poet

“Each verse is a gift, showing us how to find beauty even in brokenness.”
Renée Watson, author of the New York Times best seller Piecing Me Together
Ordinary Hazards Nikki Grimes gives us her raw, desperate, joyful, lyrical truth, while celebrating the life-changing, and ­life-saving,power of words. Whoever you are, there’s something in Ordinary Hazards for you.” —Chris Crutcher, author of Whale Talk and Losers Bracket
Ordinary Hazards is an extraordinary book, a stunning memoir in verse that celebrates the power of the written word and the human spirit. Nikki’s story will be a life-saving read for teens who need to know that there is hope on the other side of the struggles they’re facing today.”
Kate Messner, author of Breakout and The Seventh Wish 
“Can I use just one word in a blurb? Then it’s WOW! If two: Incredibly moving. If three: Poetry saved her. Four: That’s too easy. Instead I’ll tell you that if you read one book of poetry this year, or one memoir, make it this one. How the poet came out of her childhood with grace and good words is a miracle. How she wanted to share is a second one. That she did—a third. Just WOW.”
Jane Yolen, sometime poet, author of over 375 published books
“Memory is a capricious dance partner. Sometimes it overwhelms our brain, stomping with bold, defined images and thoughts, and sometimes it simply tiptoes around the edges of a whisper, a dream, a forgotten touch or glance. Nikki Grimes’s powerful memoir does both as she uses words, her constant source of strength, to tell the story of her childhood, which at times was both traumatic as well as triumphant. The strength that carried the child who would become the writer, the poet, the visionary was built on the power of words. She constantly and faithfully wrote in journals and notebooks and on scraps of paper because the words were her wings. Poetry became a necessary tool of survival for her mind and body and soul. This memoir, which she calls
Ordinary Hazards, far exceeds the title. It is extraordinary.” —Sharon M. Draper, author of the New York Times best seller Out of My Mind

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


No one warned me
the world was full of
ordinary hazards
like closets with locks and keys.
I learned this lesson when Mom,
without her cousin to fall back on,
left us daily with
a succession of strangers
while she went to work.
One woman was indisputably
a demon in disguise,
full lips grinning slyly
as Mom waved goodbye
each morning.
“See you after work,”
Mom said that first day.
The second she was out of sight,
Demon’s smile melted like
hot paraffin.
Snatching up Carol and me,
she dragged us, kicking, to
the bedroom closet.
She shoved us in, quick as the witch
in “Hansel and Gretel,”
jamming the key in the lock.
“You tattle to your mom about this,” 
she growled, “I’ll comeback
and beat the black off ya.”
Deadly threat delivered,
she left for the day.

I screamed, my puny fists pounding the door
till Carol caught me by the wrists
and held me still. “Shhhh,” she whispered.
“It’s okay. I’m right here.”
Once my breathing slowed,
Carol left me long enough
to navigate the darkness.
She found suitcases to sit on.  
Sniffling, I perched on the edge of one
 and pressed my fingertips together.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
I repeated those words
like a chant.
I was three years old.
It was the only prayer I knew.
I should’ve prayed not to pee my pants.
The cramped and stuffy space 
made me wheeze.
Brass fittings on the Samsonite case
dug into the flesh
behind my knees.
But worse yet,
the occasional roach
skittered along my calf,
up a thigh,
and I would scratch
and stomp and cry
till it was off.
No one was around
to wipe away my tears, 
except my sister,
who had tears of her own.
Day after day,
the routine remained unchanged.
Demon locked us up in the morning,
then let us out and fed us just before
Mom came home from work.
Despite the witch’s threat,
the minute Carol saw Mom, she poured out
the horrors of that first day,
but Mom waved her away
with a warning
to quit lying.
One afternoon,
when I thought
we’d live in the dark forever,
I heard what sounded like 
a familiar voice.
“Mommy?” I screamed,
afraid to believe.
But the lock turned,
the door flew open,
and I leaped into Mom’s arms.
“My God!” she said.
“How long have you two
been in here?”
“All day,” snapped Carol,
keeping her distance.
“I told you!
I told you,
but you called me a liar!”
The slap of words sent
Mom to her knees, 
written all over her face.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered,
reaching for my sister.
Carol backed away.
“Jesus,” Mom said. “What did
this woman do? Are you all right?”
Where to begin?
There were too many answers.
Even my big sister
lacked the language needed
for them all,
so we chose silence.
Besides, it was impossible to guess
which atrocities
Mom was
prepared to hear.
Thankfully, my sister and I
never laid eyes on that
bit of walking evil again. Still,
Demon lived inside us for years,
embedded in our twin fears
of the dark.
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B087PL51KL
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wordsong (May 19, 2020)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 19, 2020
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 7660 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 332 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 217 ratings

About the author

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Nikki Grimes dabbles in watercolors and collage (she created one of the illustrations for One Last Word!), she crafts handmade books, cards and beaded jewelry, is a textile artist, and once sang, danced and acted her way down the east coast of China. Her primary passion, though, is writing books for children and young adults. Her complete bibliography of trade and mass market books number close to 100. Her trade titles include historical fiction, biographies, chapter books, and novels in prose. However, poetry and novels-in-verse are her genres of choice.

A bestselling author, Grimes is the recipient of the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Other awards include the Coretta Scott King Award for Bronx Masquerade; CSK Honors for Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words With Wings; the NAACP Image Award for New York Times Bestseller Barack Obama:Son of Promise, Child of Hope; The Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry; Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for One Last Word; Claudia Lewis Poetry Award; the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award; the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor; Horn Book Fanfare for Talkin' About Bessie; The Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award; the VOYA Non-Fiction Honor; The Lion & The Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry; International Youth Library White Ravens List; ALA Notables for What is Goodbye? and Words With Wings; Notable Books for a Global Society, and more.

The novel Growin' marked Grimes' entry into children's literature. In addition, her books include Something on My Mind—her first book of poetry—A Dime a Dozen, From A Child's Heart, A Girl Named Mister, Planet Middle School, Aneesa Lee & The Weaver's Gift, Chasing Freedom, the popular Dyamonde Daniel chapter book series, the beloved Meet Danitra Brown, Wild, Wild Hair, and Welcome Precious.

A much anthologized poet, her own collections include Pocketful of Poems, Poems in the Attic, Thanks a Million, When Daddy Prays, Come Sunday, Voices of Christmas, When Gorilla Goes Walking, and Shoe Magic. Check the bibliography on her website for a full listing.

In addition to her work for children, Grimes has written articles for such magazines as Essence, Horn Book, Today's Christian Woman, Book Links, English Journal, and Image: Journal of Arts & Religion, among others.

Those who follow her on social media know that Grimes is also a photographer and avid gardener with a special penchant for roses. They also know that a new poem is apt to pop up on her wall at any given time, especially if something heavy is on her heart, usually in response to a report of social injustice.

Social justice is one of the themes readers find in books written by Grimes, often set against an urban landscape. Her themes, though, are wide-ranging: bullying, friendship, foster care, forgiveness, gratitude, empathy, identity, mental illness, loss, sexual assault—all find a place in her work. Whether the themes are light or heavy, the consistent thread of hope, in stories laced with humor, are hallmarks of books written by Nikki Grimes.

Her most recent titles include the much-acclaimed novel-in-verse Garvey's Choice the groundbreaking poetry collection, One Last Word, and the picture book The Watcher. Her much anticipated memoir, Ordinary Hazards, releases October 8, 2019.

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
217 global ratings

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