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Ordinary Hazards

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,744 ratings  ·  403 reviews
In her own voice, author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a memoir in verse.

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 p
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Wordsong
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Skyler Klee The book is a memoir of someone whose mother had paranoid schizophrenia (which is an entirely different branch of schizophrenia) that resulted in her …moreThe book is a memoir of someone whose mother had paranoid schizophrenia (which is an entirely different branch of schizophrenia) that resulted in her needing to go into the system... the very first line of the book is something along the lines of "I know it's not politically correct but I know crazy". If you're looking for a book that treats schizophrenia in a positive light I've heard I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and A Kind of Miracullas Paradise do a good job.(less)

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Average rating 4.51  · 
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 ·  1,744 ratings  ·  403 reviews

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Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this young adult poetry in motion memoir in between longer books this nonfiction reading year. I read Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade two years ago, in which she inspires Bronx high school students to enjoy their English curriculum through poetry and other free form genres. The current trend of writers Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Grimes to use poetry as a vehicle to connect complex themes to young adult readers has lead me to enjoy young adult literature marketed to people of co ...more
Hannah Greendale
Many of Grimes' painful childhood experiences are relatable, giving her memoir a universal edge. It feels odd to explore such complex issues - abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, abandonment - with so few words, yet Ordinary Hazards is one sucker punch after another, giving testament to Grimes' exceptional talent with language.


Home was never a safe place,
as my sister, Carol, tells it.
Forget the Wild West
of inner-city streets,
bullets buzzing by
on the occasional Friday night,
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
There's something about memoirs written in verse form that I find particularly appealing. There isn't as much detail and yet so much can be derived from a perfect metaphor, or from the feelings that come through the writer's words.

Nikki Grimes wrote a beautiful and powerful memoir of her childhood. Her mother was paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic, her father often not around, and she and her sister spent many years in the foster care system. She describes how she felt being passed around,
Claude's Bookzone
CW: (view spoiler)

A moving and well crafted memoir written in verse. Having read the author's notes I understand the notebook entries were based on her fragmented memory and her imagination, however they were hard to read as they felt quite disjointed. This is undoubtedly intentional but it did ruin the flow that was so beautiful in the verse sections. A wonderful example of the strength of the human s
Paul  Hankins
"It's a long story,/ but I am a poet./I can cut it short." (from the Prologue to ORDINARY HAZARDS)

Full Disclosure: I've been sitting with Nikki Grimes's memoir, ORDINARY HAZARDS, and I have been waiting for months to write a review. The problem now? We are one month away from your sitting with the memoir and experiencing what early readers like Lester Laminack and Ed Spicer and I have been sitting with for most of 2019.

I can tell you with great joy (and pride) that Nikki Grimes is a friend. No.
Jan 27, 2020 marked it as dnf
Shelves: 2020, 4, ya, verse, printz, starred-2019

This verse doesn’t work for me at all:(
Printz Honor 2020

I know only one person who's read it. A very obscure title.
Mar 01, 2021 added it
Shelves: audiobook, poetry, memoir
Heartbreaking, yet so powerful! Didn't quite find it poetic (ah, what do I know of poetry), but still enjoyed the writing. The narration by the author was the best part - a mix of passion and honesty.

TW: Alcoholism, Schizophrenia, Bullying, Sexual Abuse, Death.
Stephanie Bange
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Note: Reviewed from an ARC.

If you are to read one book this year, this should be the one you should pick up. Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir is an amazing peek into the formative years of poet Nikki Grimes. Not only does this work detail her faith, resiliency, and strength of will, but it also informs on her creative mind and writing process.

In this free verse memoir, Grimes tells of her childhood – from her birth in Harlem through the time she finally leaves her mother’s chaotic home and finds stabi
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary writing that touches every part of the heart and soul. Grimes' poetry is exquisite and there isn't a single poem in this book that wasn't like taking a master class in writing. Every emotion and experience becomes a part of the reader.

Even more extraordinary is the story of searing childhood experiences that Grimes managed to surmount, learn from and triumph over. Inspiring is an over-used word but this memoir is inspiring.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nikki Grimes is a genius. She was honest, open, and raw about her challenging childhood and adolescence, and she does it so achingly beautiful. I am so glad that she had her notebook as an oasis. We are lucky, too.
Kris Patrick
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Worthy of its many starred reviews and awards and more.
A brutal and powerful verse memoir about growing up in an unstable family dealing with schizophrenia, absenteeism, sexual assault, and the foster care system. But through it all, Nikki's solace in writing comes through, as does her commitment to being a survivor. Messy and challenging and moving and ultimately everything a Printz book is. (I'm so curious how the committee talked about this one and SHOUT, since they have many parallels, not just their format, and both are extremely moving). ...more
Molly Dettmann
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, heartbreaking, I didn’t know it was possible to have even more love and respect for this wonderful author that I read as a kid, but Nikki Grimes did it by opening up about her life is this stunning memoir in verse. Her words jumped off the page and I got such a vivid look at her life, the dark and horrific, as well as the comforting and inspiring parts. Everyone should read this.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ritba-2021
ORDINARY HAZARDS is a gorgeously written poetic memoir that is at times difficult to read, but also so filled with love and hope.
Jess Witkins
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking lyric memoir. Extraordinary life, extraordinary writing.

Nikki Grimes wanted to write about the dark moments of her life, but she also wanted to write about the light, which she knew could be harder to find. Told in a variety of poetry styles, Grimes' voice comes through clear and strong. An inspiring work for anyone who uses words to find a way through. I applaud this book. Utterly compelling and well-crafted.
Edward Sullivan
Grimes's memoir in verse recounts with searing honesty traumatic childhood experiences and her discovery of the healing power of words. ...more
Nathan Bartos
Read for my Library Materials for Young Adults class.
I listened to this on audio because it's in verse, but I'm not sure I have much to say about it which isn't a great sign. Her struggles were upsetting, for sure, but I didn't feel that connected with Grimes, and I'm not sure the verse was all that effective for me. It's hard to make a judgment call on a person's story, but the quality of the book overall was not that high in my opinion.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This memoir in verse is low on words but huge on impact. Grimes brings to life her childhood filled with mental illness, alcoholism and abandonment.
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh, this story. I’m going to have to buy a copy when it comes out in paperback and highlight all of the beautiful lines I want to hold on to and go back to read again and again. Sometimes I had to stop reading and take a break and sometimes I didn’t want to keep reading. One of my favorite lines is from Grimes’ sister, “The world will know the Grimes sisters.” We can only be so lucky this story has been shared.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir--I tried to fix title/ISBN glitch but couldn't. Poignant, beautiful, and even more meaningful because of a wonderful dinner I had with Grimes several years ago at TLA. ...more
Mary Thomas
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A FANTASTIC memoir that should be added to all high school collections!! Beautiful writing. Highly recommend this one! Out in October.
Laura Gardner
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fantastic! Belongs in all high school libraries.
Virginia Walter
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
The Legacy Award winning author has written a moving memoir of her traumatic childhood and adolescence, told in some of her most eloquent verse. She is a survivor.
A page turner and powerful in the same family as stories like Jacqueline Woodson, Laurie Halse Anderson, etc. that turn pain into beauty and provide thoughtful social commentary through their own experiences and perspective. Grimes goes to great length to discuss what a memoir is and isn't so that the reader knows what they're getting and it's perfect.

Grimes' story is a tragic one that hopefulness had to come from likely and unlikely sources to allow her to flourish because so many of the adult
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
“Where do memories hide?
They sneak into
Hard-to-reach crevices,
and nestle quietly until
some random thought
or question
burrows in,
hooks one by the tail,
and pulls.
Finally, out into the light
It comes
Sheepishly.” (304)

Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carry, said in a speech, “You don’t have to tell a true story to tell the truth.” In Bridging the Gap, I wrote that a memoir is how the memoirist remembers the events—triggered by sights, smells, conversations, incidents—tempered by time, life, and
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nikki Grimes has created a masterpiece, weaving the pain and trauma of her childhood into a memoir that is deeply personal, intimate, vulnerable, and powerful. Her exquisite expressions of the pain of not remembering details of her childhood - lost between moves forced by her mother's schizophrenia and alcoholism, an absentee father, the foster care system, the violence of being a lone wolf in a youth culture built around street gangs and violence - are filled in with an authenticity for truth a ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As an aspiring young writer, Grimes told her mentor, "I want to write books about some of the darkness I've seen, real stories about real people, you know? But I also want to write about the light, because I've seen that, too. That place of light -- it's not always easy to get to, but it's there. It's there."

In the author's notes at the end of the book, she writes, "I hope my story helps you to live more fully into your own."

The best I can say is that she has done what she set out to do. This
Lena Boudreau
Feb 27, 2021 rated it liked it
I had heard so many good things about this memoir and the average rating on Goodreads is VERY high, but I didn't love this book. I am not a huge memoir person, but I was intrigued by the premise of this one. And while Nikki Grimes' story is compelling I did not enjoy the writing style. The verse did not speak to me and I found myself to be distanced from her the entire time. Nikki Grimes has a lot of blank patches in her life because of the trauma she experienced growing up and I understand that ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
Every year as the youth literary awards are announced, I try to read the offerings. This memoir written by accomplished youth author Nikki Grimes is outstanding and won the Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature. Her story is told in free verse and ponders the reliability of memory, but still communicates the emotions and trials of a difficult childhood. It is the fierce connection of sisters, and the heroes who help guide this budding writer, from kind foster parents, librarians, ...more
Linda Wolfe
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: YA + Adult
The word “powerful” is not strong enough to represent the emotional impact of this memoir in verse. How Nikki Grimes survived is amazing, let alone the fact that she has grown into such an incredible writer. I have read other books where it is seemingly impossible that the main character could survive, yet, perhaps because this one is so current (or perhaps because Nikki’s lifetime is within the time span of my own) I was left breathless, distraught, angry and amazed and full of hope. You cannot ...more
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“Trauma is a memory hog,
It gobbles up all available space
in the brain,
leaves little room to mark
daily happenstances,
or even routine injuries
which are less than

My father fed me
Invisible Man,
Native Son,
No Longer at Ease,
Black Man's Burden,
and the more I read,
the madder I got,
and I already
had reason
to scream,
but my father
kept me dreaming
of what words
I might bring
to the world.”
More quotes…