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One Last Word
One Last Word
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Ordinary Hazards
written by Nikki Grimes
YA / Adult
Wordsong, October 2019
ISBN 978-1629798813

About the Book

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.


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)

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)

In 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 hazards, 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)
In 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)

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