Strong Boy, Weak Man
The story of Michael DeAngelo Nicholas is one that should be told more often. It is the story of a poor black boy in the rural South, a boy not valued by many—looked down upon and deemed hopeless. Mike was born in rural Mississippi, one of 13 children, to poor sharecropper parents. Even though Mike’s circumstances seem bleak, his drive cannot be matched.
The novel begins the summer before Mike enters eighth grade. He can’t read or spell well, so he has been known to act out in class. When a writer named Dr. Gray from Washington D.C. visits Mississippi, he takes an interest in Mike for a story he is writing. One thing that impresses Dr. Gray is Mike’s passion and determination to become a professional fighter. Mike’s dad makes it apparent to Dr. Gray that he doesn’t believe Mike will amount to much. Even Dr. Gray’s brother, Mike’s teacher, has no faith in the boy because of his previous behavior at school—he’s just a dumb boy who can barely read or spell, or so they thought.
Things start to change when Mike finds a set of clippers in the schoolyard. He decides that this is his new career path, but who can he practice on? Mike finds a dog that he names Experiment, who becomes his new client. His friends laugh at him, and his father even exchanges Experiment for a pair of shoes to discourage him from pursuing hair cutting. Experiment was Mike’s only way of perfecting his craft. The powerful thing about Mike is that he finds optimism in the face of defeat. He decides that he can do nothing to change the cruel trade-off his father had made, so he will have to use the shoes in his favor. He shines them up, puts on his best clothes, and heads to school the next day. In Mr. Chamberlain’s class, there is a substitute teacher—the wife of the best barber in town.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I even cried a few times; maybe that’s because I have a few dogs in this fight. I am an educator by trade, and I, too, am a black American from the rural South. Mike’s story reminds me of my father, who struggles with spelling, worked as a farmer growing up, and had little inspiration to think big or be great as a child. There are countless stories of poor black men who were considered the worst in our society but proved to be the most tenacious. <br
I will always remember what Mike thought when his father gave away his dog. “Mike realized that particular night that no matter how disappointing his life became and what harsh circumstances he encountered, he would be able to find some way to shake off the bad and find the good and move on.” I will always remember that every student has talent and gifts. I will always remember Mike’s prayers of thankfulness every night before bed. I truly believe this book has made me a better person, and I look forward to another miracle book from Mr. Keys—from barely reading to published author.
|Author||Earl Robert Key|
|Page Count||338 pages|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Spirituality & Inspiration|
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