Ordinary Hazards: Nikki Grimes's 2020 BGHB Nonfiction Honor Speech

I’ve always believed that my coming-­of-age story is the single most important story I had to tell. I didn’t imagine that it would take me quite so long to tell it, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. Ordinary Hazards is easily the most difficult work I’ve ever written. Memoir is a work of both story and memory, after all, and memory is one tricky beast, not easily wrangled, let alone wrestled to the page. Memory riddled by childhood trauma is trickier still.

I first attempted to write my memoir thirty-nine years ago. Do the math, and you’ll realize that has got to be the longest gestation period for a literary work in the history of the world, or pretty darn close. And yet, I now believe Ordinary Hazards is a book that’s right on time. It’s a tale of triumph over darkness, threaded through with light, hope, and grace. And what reader doesn’t need that kind of story at this particular moment in time?

I hope my story will inspire others to embrace and honor their own. When we share our stories, we bless the person who needs to hear them, if only to be reminded that he or she is not alone.

[Read Horn Book reviews of the 2020 BGHB Nonfiction winners.]

My heartfelt thanks to Boyds Mills & Kane for bringing Ordinary Hazards out into the world, and to the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee for choosing to honor it.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2020 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB20. Read more from The Horn Book by and about Nikki Grimes.

Nikki Grimes

Nikki Grimes has received the ALAN Award, Children’s Literature Legacy Award, CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, among others. Her memoir Ordinary Hazards (Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane) was a Printz, Sibert, and Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book.

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