In this stirring and clear-eyed memoir, the 2011 National Book Award winner contends with the deaths of five young men dear to her, and the still great risk of being a black man in the rural South.
We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped. Harriet Tubman
In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her lifeto drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truthand it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.
Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Wards memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticats Brother, I'm Dying, Tobias Wolff's This Boys Life, and Maya Angelous I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
"This is a beautifully written homage, with a pathos and understanding that come from being a part of the culture described." - Booklist
"A memoir that, in plainsong prose punctuated with sudden poetic flashes, schools us in the unforgiving experiences from which [Ward] has drawn her triumphal fiction... [Ward is an] eloquent envoy from a forgotten part of America." - Elle
"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
"Jesmyn Ward left her Gulf Coast home for education and experience, but it called her back. It called on her in most painful ways, to mourn. In Men We Reaped, Jesmyn unburies her dead, that they may live again. And through this emotional excavation, she forces us to see the problems of place and race that led these men to their early graves. Full of beauty, love, and dignity, Men We Reaped is a haunting and essential read." - Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate , author of THRALL and NATIVE GUARD, winner of the Pulitizer Prize
"Eloquent... Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward's substantial talent." - Dwight Garner, New York Times
"Devastating... Ward is a vivid, urgent writer, and here she is bearing witness to poverty and racism, the inequality that plagues her community and so many others like it... Her story shines a light on this darkness, reminding us we will never be able to lift it if we do not at least look" - Oprah.com
"Ward has a soft touch, making these stories heartbreakingly real through vivid portrayal and dialogue." - Publishers Weekly
"Men We Reaped is an important, and perhaps essential, book, in large part because this accomplished and deservedly lauded novelist somehow summoned the strength to bring us all home with her to the white-hot center of her pain, to the place where that wolf resides." - San Francisco Chronicle
"An important, and perhaps even essential, book." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Ward craetes nuanced and loving portraits of African-American men and boys...a must read." - The Dallas Morning News
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
September 17, 2013
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