Sunday, April 25, 2021

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward


This is one of the best memoirs I've read in a while. It's beautifully written and achingly sad. In MEN WE REAPED, Jesmyn Ward writes about some of the Black men in her life who died way too young. But this memoir explores other things, too: class disparity, racism, what it's like to grow up in poverty, the social pressures of growing up Black (for men and for women), the way drugs can tear apart a community, and the callousness of reducing all of this to cold statistics.

The writing is gorgeous. I ended up reading most of this in a single day. I felt almost like I was held captive by the author's stories: I wanted to know how everything would turn out, even if it would turn out bad. (And, given the premise of this memoir, it often did.) The last story, about her younger brother, was especially devastating, although Ronald's story was pretty brutal, too. Even though the memoir is very short, each of these vignettes really give you an insight into what these men were like and why they were so important to the author.

I almost feel like to say anything else wouldn't do this memoir justice. I hadn't heard any buzz around this book and bought it when it was one of the deals of the day, but now I want to read everything else this woman writes. It takes real talent to stir emotion with words, which are by nature impersonal, but the author succeeds wildly with this book.

5 out of 5 stars

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