Men We Reaped

Men We Reaped

3.5 6
by Jesmyn Ward
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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

The New York Times Book Review - Tayari Jones
Jesmyn Ward…chronicles our American story in language that is raw, beautiful and dangerous. Her National Book Award-winning novel, Salvage the Bones, claimed the Gulf Coast as her literary territory, but with Men We Reaped, it's clear the region has claimed her in return…Ward's 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 - Dwight Garner
This at times somber book is also shot through with life, with a sense of rural community and what it felt like to be adolescent and footloose on hot Mississippi nights…Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward's substantial talent. It's an elegiac book that's rangy at the same time.
Publishers Weekly
In this riveting memoir of the ghosts that haunt her hometown in Mississippi, two-time novelist and National Book Award–winner Ward (Salvage the Bones) writes intimately about the pall of blighted opportunity, lack of education, and circular poverty that hangs over the young, vulnerable African-American inhabitants of DeLisle, Miss., who are reminiscent of the characters in Ward’s fictionalized Bois Sauvage. The five young black men featured here are the author’s dear friends and her younger brother, whose deaths between 2000 and 2004 were “seemingly unrelated,” but all linked to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and a general “lack of trust” in the ability of society—and, ultimately, family and friends—to nurture them. The first to die (though his story is told last in the book) was her brother, Joshua, a handsome man who didn’t do as well in school as Ward and was stuck back home, doing odd jobs while his sister attended Stanford and later moved to N.Y.C. Joshua died senselessly after being struck by a drunk driver on a dark coastal road one night. The “wolf” that tracked all of these young men—and the author, too, when she experienced the isolation of being black at predominantly white schools—was the sense of how little their lives mattered. Ward beautifully incorporates the pain and guilt woven her and her brother’s lives by the absence and failure of their father, forcing their mother to work as a housekeeper to keep the family afloat. Ward has a soft touch, making these stories heartbreakingly real through vivid portrayal and dialogue. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones (one of my favorite novels ever), Ward writes so sharply and affectingly of African American life in the rural South that everyone should be anticipating this memoir-cum-social observation. Over five years, Ward saw the death (by drugs, suicide, accident, and more) of her brother and four other young men to whom she was close, and she came to realize what seemed so obvious in hindsight: they all died as a consequence of the limited economic opportunity and fractured family life that is the legacy of long-standing racism. As she reflects on her losses, telling the stories of her community, she gives us an intimate understanding of deep-rooted social issues.
Kirkus Reviews
An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones, 2011, etc.). Like the author's novels, this study of life on the margins--of society, of dry land against the bayou, of law--takes place in the stunning tropical heat of southern Mississippi. Her parents had tried to leave there and make new lives in the freedom, vast horizon and open sky of California: "There were no vistas in Mississippi, only dense thickets of trees all around." But they had returned, and in the end, the homecoming broke them apart. Ward observes that the small town of her youth was no New Orleans; there was not much to do there, nor many ennobling prospects. So what do people do in such circumstances? They drink, take drugs, reckon with "the dashed dreams of being a pilot or a doctor," they sink into despair, they die--all things of which Ward writes, achingly, painting portraits of characters such as a young daredevil of a man who proclaimed to anyone who would listen, "I ain't long for this world," and another who shrank into bony nothingness as crack cocaine whittled him away. With more gumption than many, Ward battled not only the indifferent odds of rural poverty, but also the endless racism of her classmates in the school she attended on scholarship, where the only other person of color, a Chinese girl, called blacks "scoobies": " ‘Like Scooby Doo?' I said. ‘Like dogs?' " Yes, like dogs, and by Ward's account, it's a wonder that anyone should have escaped the swamp to make their way in that larger, more spacious world beyond it. A modern rejoinder to Black Like Me, Beloved and other stories of struggle and redemption--beautifully written, if sometimes too sad to bear.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608197651
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
09/16/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
80,248
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet 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.

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The Men We Reaped: A Memoir 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jesmyn Ward writes a powerful story. She tells of the losses (one after another) of relatives and friends. The 5 men she accounts for are all from poverty. Some are drug addicts. She does a fine job describing her loss and theorizing why is wasn't just bad luck that these losses occurred. I applaud Ms. Ward on a stunning memoir that will stick with me for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Ward has done an amazing job of eloquently presenting her world, the world in which young people full of potential lose hope and lose their lives because not much has changed in terms of the way that African American, and specifically poor African American men and women are treated in the South. Immersive, powerful, gripping, and highly recommended. Ms. Ward, I HEAR YOU. Amazing. Leave your cynicism behind and allow the power of this work to speak to you.
danell More than 1 year ago
I read Jesmyn Ward's first book and enjoyed it so much I was eager to read this one. Was I ever disappointed. I did not even make it through the first chapter. Maybe at a later date I will decide to open it back up and try to finish it but as for right now, I do not think so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She very vividly presents her community. But as someone who lives in MS and works in an alternative school where young black men are the majority of our students, I question her analysis that the deaths of the 3 black young men (I haven't finished the entire book yet) are primarily the result of the racist environment they inhabit. Children learn what they live and it's next to impossible to replace that learning with something else when they are older. In our program we find that if students get clean and sober, most of the other obstacles they face become manageable. In MS if you do some type of forced intervention with these very troubled young men, you're racist with no regard for their culture and if you don't try to intervene you're part of a racist system that just doesn't care about them.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Ward does a wonderful job telling the story of a place I have seen but don't understand. In her memoir she mentions an old friend telling her how glad she is that Ward is giving voice to this community. Like Ward's old friend, I appreciate that someone can tell the story of this complicated community so well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story started okay and tried to make me think. In the end was just the same complaining that gives blacks a poor name. I can identify with the author, but I do not feel this was a good book. It's sad and tragic, not entertaining or even interesting.