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
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction
Winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award
One of the New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2019
One of the best books of the year as selected by The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Magazine; Harper’s Bazaar; Elle; Kirkus Reviews; Publishers Weekly; BuzzFeed; Goodreads; School Library Journal; and many more.
“A moving, bracingly honest memoir that reads like fevered poetry.” The New York Times Book Review
“Jones’s voice and sensibility are so distinct that he turns one of the oldest of literary genres inside out and upside down.” NPR’S Fresh Air
“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.” Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“This book. Oh my goodness. It is everything everyone needs right now—both love song and battle cry, brilliant as fuck and at times, heartbreaking as hell....I’m shook. I’m changed.” Jacqueline Woodson, author of Another Brooklyn
“...a rhapsody in the truest sense of the word, fragments of epic poetry woven together so skillfully, so tenderly, so brutally, that you will find yourself aching in the way only masterful writing can make a person ache.” Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
"Extremely personal, emotionally gritty, and unabashedly honest, How We Fight for Our Lives is an outstanding memoir that somehow manages a perfect balance between love and violence, hope and hostility, transformation and resentment." NPR
“One could say that Saeed Jones' new memoir...is a classic coming-of-age story….But Jones' voice and sensibility are so distinct that he turns one of the oldest of literary genres inside out and upside down.” Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s “Fresh Air”
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 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 Columbus, Ohio and tweets @TheFerocity.