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Good Kings, Bad Kingsby Susan Nussbaum
Synopses & Reviews
Bellwether Award winner Susan Nussbaum's powerful novel invites us into the lives of a group of typical teenagers — alienated, funny, yearning for autonomy — except that they live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. This unfamiliar, isolated landscape is much the same as the world outside: friendships are forged, trust is built, love affairs are kindled, and rules are broken. But those who call it home have little or no control over their fate. Good Kings Bad Kings challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled in a story told with remarkable authenticity and in voices that resound with humor and spirit.
"This is fiction at its best. The story's sharp eye allows no one to take shelter, and it doesn't flinch; it is simply and breathtakingly honest....A stunning accomplishment." Barbara Kingsolver
"[Nussbaum's] novel is all fierce energy and wit, a celebration of strength, dignity, and the cathartic pleasure of telling it like it is." Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After
"A mighty first novel....Authentic, galvanizing, and righteous." Booklist, starred review
"Funny, heartbreaking, and inspiring....A stirring debut from a determined writer and activist." Publishers Weekly
"Nussbaum's vivid portraits...reveal the three-dimensional humanity of people the rest of society is all too willing to neglect and ignore....A most appropriate winner of the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction." Kirkus Reviews
"A KNOCKOUT....A book that has the potential to change forever the conversation we are (or are not) having about what it means to be 'disabled'....In Good Kings Bad Kings, we have the rare opportunity to be awakened by hearing the truth delivered with beauty alongside agony, despair interwoven with possibility." Los Angeles Review of Books
"Nussbaum wonderfully sweetens a stark subject with doses of idiosyncratic humor and hard-earned pathos...[she] upholds the individuality and integrity of her characters, never stooping to saccharine cliches or Hollywood manipulation...[a] moving story." The Wall Street Journal
"This is a world as foreign to most as another planet. That Nussbaum is able to make it as real and as painful and joyful and alive as she does is a spectacular accomplishment...a joy for readers." Chicago Tribune
"Each character tells his or her own story in alternating chapters with lively, diverse, authentic voices....Nussbaum will have readers rooting for these brave, vulnerable teens to fight for better lives." School Library Journal
This powerful and inspiring debut 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.
About the Author
Susan Nussbaum’s plays have been widely produced. Her play Mishuganismo is included in the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. In 2008 she was cited by the Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” for her work with girls with disabilities. This is her first novel.
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