A compelling story that is part coming-of-age, part coming-out, How We Fight for Our Lives, written by Saeed Jones, tells of the author's first 20-some years living as a Black gay man in America. Jones's brilliance shines as he makes a case for writing about personal trauma, not only to understand but to move beyond it. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
A really good book usually prompts me to do at least one of the following: gasp audibly, hug the book to my chest, or thrust it into a loved one’s hands as soon as I finish. This one prompted all three. Written with candor and poetic clarity, Jones’s memoir wields more emotional heft than seems possible in so few pages, and is downright devastating in its beauty. Recommended By Tove H., Powells.com
Saeed Jones has written a great memoir. Told with a poet’s skill at expression, the true strength of How We Fight for Our Lives is the clarity with which Jones can view both his interior and exterior selves. Each of Jones’s intersectional identities is conveyed in the holistic manner that he experiences them, providing every reader with a broader understanding. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
How We Fight for Our Lives might be one of the best memoirs that I've ever read, and as someone who reads a lot of memoirs, I don't say that lightly. It's obvious after reading this memoir that Jones is a poet. Each sentence appears carefully selected, poised and brimming with emotion. I would read a few pages at a time, not noticing that I was holding my breath the entire time until I exhaled. Jones is a rare talent: he is both funny and humanizing; sensitive yet not willing to lie down and roll over; wise and yet always willing to learn and become better. It is refreshing. I finished the book and I called my mom to tell her that I loved her. I also asked my employer about enrolling in writing classes after I read a singular essay from How We Fight. I'll read anything from Saeed Jones from this day forward. Recommended By Katherine M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A coming-of-age memoir marks the emergence of a major literary voice...Masterful." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"An astonishing, unparalleled memoir...A rhapsody in the truest sense of the word." Roxane Gay
"Every single living half-grown and grown-up body needs to read this book." Jacqueline Woodson
One of the most anticipated books of Fall 2019 — as selected by O, The Oprah Magazine; Marie Claire; Entertainment Weekly; Time; The Millions; Parade; Library Journal; Booklist; Refinery29; Pacific Standard; Good Housekeeping; Nylon; Pacific Standard; Goodreads; and more.
"People don't just happen," writes Saeed Jones. "We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The 'I' it seems doesn't exist until we are able to say, 'I am no longer yours.'"
Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence — into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another — and to one another — as we fight to become ourselves.
An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that's as beautiful as it is powerful — a voice that's by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.
"This is that rare piece of literary art that teaches us how to read and write on every page. It's so black. So queer. So subtextual, and amazingly so sincere. Saeed changes everything we thought we knew about memoir writing, narrative structure, and heart meat."
Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"Jones' explosive and poetic memoir traces his coming-of-age as a black, queer, and Southern man in vignettes that heartbreakingly and rigorously explore the beauty of love, the weight of trauma, and the power of resilience." Entertainment Weekly
"Jones' unabashed honesty and gift for self-aware humor will resonate with readers, especially those in search of a story that resembles their own." Booklist
About the Author
Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The poetry collection was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as awards from Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle in 2015. Jones is a co-host of BuzzFeed's morning show, AM to DM, and previously served as BuzzFeed's LGBT editor and Culture editor. Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Lewisville, Texas. He earned a BA at Western Kentucky University and an MFA at Rutgers University-Newark. He lives in New York City and tweets @TheFerocity.