The One Book Northland committee has announced its 20th selection, "The Nickel Boys," by Colson Whitehead, as the 2021 One Book Northland title.

The committee selection was influenced by the cancellation of the 2020 events for that year’s selected title, "Just Mercy," by Bryan Stevenson, due to the pandemic, according to a news release from Cloquet Public Library.

"The topic of racial injustice presented in this nonfiction work still needs to be made available for community discussion, and so a coordinating fiction work was carefully researched and selected," the release said. "As with our first selected One Book Northland title in 2002, 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' by Harper Lee, community engagement on these important topics is necessary and desired and the reason for One Book Northland."

Colson Whitehead has won two Pulitzer Prize awards for fiction, for "The Underground Railroad" and "The Nickel Boys."

"The Nickel Boys" tells the devastating tale of two boys unjustly sentenced to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. The novel is based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children.

The Cloquet Public Library, Duluth Public Library, Superior Public Library, Two Harbors Public Library, Barnes & Noble, Bookstore at Fitger’s, UMD Office of Diversity and Inclusion, UMD Kathryn A. Martin Library and Zenith Bookstore will sponsor events related to the book. Information is available at

Cloquet Public Library events

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  • Story Walk in Veterans Park — April 10, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Featuring "Last Stop on Market Street," by Matt de la Peña.
  • "The Nickel Boys" book discussion — April 15, 4-6 p.m. A signup sheet, discussion guide and a bibliography are available at the library. There will be a limit of 30 people. Break-out sessions will be available, with a final group discussion.
  • Movie showing with themes of race and equity — April 29, 4-6 p.m. The title is available at the library. There is a signup sheet with a limit of 30 people. Discussion will follow. Popcorn will be available.