If this book was only what it is on the surface — a memoir of Ward’s experience watching four young men, including her brother, die before any of them turned 25 — it would be among the most deeply felt and moving memoirs I’ve ever read. But this book is also a powerful investigation of how poverty, race, and the history of injustice in the Deep South have all conspired to make simply living one’s life a dangerous proposition for young black men. Ward doesn’t let her subjects off the hook for their behavior and their roles in their own downfall, but she doesn’t let us as a society off either. Recommended By Tim B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Universally praised, Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped
confirmed her ascendancy as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, her Southern requiem securing its place on bestseller and best books of the year lists, with honors and awards pouring in from around the country.
Jesmyn's memoir shines a light on the community she comes from, in the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi, a place of quiet beauty and fierce attachment. Here, in the space of four years, she lost five young men dear to her, including her beloved brother — lost to drugs, accidents, murder, and suicide. Their deaths were seemingly unconnected, yet their lives had been connected, by identity and place, and as Jesmyn dealt with these losses, she came to a staggering truth: These young men died because of who they were and the place they were from, because certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck. Because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle. The agonizing reality commanded Jesmyn to write, at last, their true stories and her own.
Men We Reaped opens up a parallel universe, yet it points to problems whose roots are woven into the soil under all our feet. This indispensable American memoir is destined to become a classic.
"An important, and perhaps even essential, book." San Francisco Chronicle
"[Ward] chronicles our American story in language that is raw, beautiful and dangerous.…[Her] singular voice and her full embrace of her anger and sorrow set this work apart from those that have trodden similar ground." The New York Times Book Review
"Heart-wrenching.…A brilliant book about beauty and death…at once a coming-of-age story and a kind of mourning song…filled [with] intimate and familial moments, each described with the passion and precision of the polished novelist Ward has become.…Ward is one of those rare writers who's traveled across America's deepening class rift with her sense of truth intact." Los Angeles Times
"A memoir that is as searing as her fiction, as poignant and as timely...in a country that is supposed to be post racial but still seems hell-bent on the epidemic destruction of young black men." Edwidge Danticat, The Progressive
About the Author
Jesmyn Ward received her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan and is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, the latter of which won the 2011 National Book Award and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi, and lives there now.