Colson Whitehead is to follow up his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Underground Railroad" with the Jim Crow-era novel "The Nickel Boys," due out in summer 2019.
"The Nickel Boys" will tell the story of two boys sentenced to attend a "hellish" reform school in Florida during the Jim Crow era, according to UK publisher Fleet.
While claiming to provide "physical, intellectual and moral training" and to equip boys to become "honorable and honest men," the Nickel Academy is a "chamber of horrors," filled with abuse and corruption, where those who resist face a grave fate.
Among its students is Elwood Curtis, who is about to enroll in the local black college when an innocent mistake brings him instead to the Academy. There, he aims to live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while his fellow inmate and new friend Turner takes a different tack, believing the only way to survive is to turn to the same cruelty as their oppressors.
As the book's description reads, "The tension between Elwood's idealism and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions."
Whitehead's story is based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years.
"It was a story I hadn't seen told before -- another one of our country's secret tragedies. I wanted to speak for them, in whatever small way I could," says the author.
"The Nickel Boys" will be published by Fleet in the UK on July 30, 2019; a July 2019 release has likewise been slated by US publisher Doubleday.
Whitehead's 2016 novel "The Underground Railroad" won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for its story of a slave's treacherous state-by-state flight for freedom by way of an otherworldly train system.