Book Review

MEN WE REAPED by Jesmyn Ward

Rating: 5 / 5

I have been a fan of Jesmyn Ward’s writing since I first read her a couple years ago and I’ve had her memoir on my shelf for a long while. I actually had it in a possibilities stack for the last #NonfictionNovember, so I knew I had to definitely get to it this time around!

MEN WE REAPED is a memoir talking about the author’s life, but it also is much more. The book focuses in on five years in which she lost five young men who were important in her life. She tells the story of herself and these men in a nonlinear fashion, circling around the central loss of her own brother. These men were lost in rapid succession to drugs, to accidents, to suicide, and to violence. And while all of these factors can impact any life, the horrific abundance of loss in her life speaks directly to the additional danger of growing up in a system that disadvantages poor, Black young men.

This wasn’t an easy book to read (there is a lot of triggering content), but it was also impossible to put down. The author does a fantastic job of letting the reader get to know her own history. Her childhood growing up up in a poor family in a rural area of Mississippi brought to mind some of the settings from her fictional work. She showed us these young men who were both troubled, but also dear to her so that the reader really felt the impact of each loss.

Jesmyn was the one in her family to ‘get out’ by going on to higher education, starting a career, and becoming a successful author, but the pull back to her roots and the pain of those losses made a permanent impact. I can’t even imagine the pain that it must have taken to write this memoir, but I am so glad to have finally picked it up. This is absolutely worth adding to your reading list!

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