Monday, November 11, 2013

Men We Reaped

Jesmyn Ward's memoir, Men We Reaped is beautifully written.  It also deals with tragedy - a lot of it.  In the span of just a few years in Ward's life, she has lost five men close to her.  

Ward, an African American, writes about the plight of the black man, something she has witnessed firsthand in her own family and with her friends.  Ward has constructed her memoir by moving back and forth - writing chapters on her childhood and alternating them with chapters about the men she has loved and lost.  Ward begins with her most recent loss, and works backwards to the death of her beloved brother. 

Although my own life experiences are far removed from Ward's, I can see many of my students in the young men that Ward writes about - the young men who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, who find themselves making poor decisions to earn money quickly, who drop out of school before they finish.  The men Ward writes of are victims of poverty, their lives cut tragically short for a variety of reasons - suicide, drugs, accidents - the many traps that people living in poverty fall into.

Ward helps bring a face to the statistics we often hear quoted in the news about black men.  She is able to show their humanity - their hopes and dreams, and the fact that they are loved by their friends and families, and now missed by them as well. 

The beauty of her writing makes this memoir all the more heartbreaking.There aren't many books I think I would like to re-read, but Men We Reaped is one I would happily sit down with again, just to be able to appreciate the writing and the story again.

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