Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Good Kings Bad Kings
Author: Susan Nussbaum
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books (May 28, 2013)
The powerful and inspiring debut from Susan Nussbaum, the 2012 winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, invites us into a landscape populated with young people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by misfortune but whose voices resound with resilience, courage, and humor.
Inside the halls of ILLC, an institution for juveniles with disabilities, we discover a place that is deeply different from and yet remarkably the same as the world outside. Nussbaum crafts a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us. In this isolated place on Chicago’s South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. It’s in these alliances that the residents of this neglected community ultimately find the strength to bond together, resist their mistreatment, and finally fight back. And in the process, each is transformed.
In my opinion, this is an important book. Why? It doesn't romanticize these teens/young adults with their limitations. These are people. They are people with physical and emotional issues. They may have limits to how they walk, talk or feel but they're still like the rest of us. Some are bullies, some use their disabilities to emotional advantages, some just try to get through the day and want a pillow and some affection at the end of it. They feel anger, love, loneliness and hope.....just like the rest of us.
There are many characters in this novel, most of them bringing inspiration and sadness at the same time with their disabilities.
The stories that come from within this institution, where they wrongly house people with both kinds of disabilities together, making it hard for someone in a wheelchair to get away from someone else having a schizophrenia attack, are told in everyday voices from the various characters - everyone from the actual "inmates" to the bus drivers and nurses.
It's an eye opening novel, one that might just make you act differently the next time a disabled person slows you down in the store or acts up at the bus stop.