Research Article

A Study of Trauma Writing in Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys


  • Juanzhi You College of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China


Colson Whitehead, a well-known contemporary African American writer, who has won the Pulitzer Prize twice. The Nickel Boys won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019, and the novel takes the tragic experience of black teenagers in the Nickel Academy Reformatory School as the main line of the story. This paper applies Judith Herman’s trauma theory to analyze the physical and psychological trauma faced by the characters in the novel, as well as the causes of this trauma. The racism and prejudice that the black people suffered have been deeply affecting their living and mental state. At the same time, this paper discusses the possible ways to realize the recovery of trauma with the theory of trauma and recovery. Through the trauma study, we can see that under the combined stress of these traumas, African Americans suffer from a great blow in their body and spirit. The causes of the trauma are multidimensional and are the result of a combination of historical and social factors. For example, the segregation system is responsible for the trauma of African Americans. At the end of the paper, it discusses ways for black people to come out of trauma. Trauma recovery is a complex and difficult process in which black people must rely on their own efforts and help from the black community to achieve trauma recovery. It can be said that Whitehead’s exploration of the trauma recovery in the novels shows his realistic concern for African Americans and even human beings.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

6 (9)





How to Cite

You, J. (2023). A Study of Trauma Writing in Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 6(9), 65–71.



Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys, Trauma Theory, Black Community