Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir is an award-winning book that exposes young readers not only to a young girl’s struggles, but the racial conflicts in the world around her. There are several references to Nikki’s skin color and its effects on her: She is shunned in a ballet class, and later a young friend is told she can’t play with Nikki. And Nikki hears stories about what is done to Black people in the South. Her family watches the turmoil surrounding Malcolm X with deep interest.
While these racial issues are inherently discomforting, the book offers positive presentations, too. Nikki’s father purposely exposes her to accomplished African-American artists to help her see success is not for White people only. And the author promotes the idea of seeking healing and healthy resolution in life.
Parents of young readers should know, however, that author Nikki Grimes doesn’t pull many punches when it comes to the alcoholism, drug use, physical abuse and even rape that scarred her young life. And that can make for a sad and often painful read.
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Review by Danielle Pitzer