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Men We Reaped: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Jesmyn Ward
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In four years, five young men dear to Ward died of various causes, from drug overdose to accident to suicide, but the underlying cause of their deaths was a self-destructive spiral born of hopelessness. Surrounded by so much death and sorrow, Ward closely examined the heartbreakingly relentless deathsof her young relatives and friends growing up in the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi, with few job prospects and little to engage their time and talents other than selling and using drugs and alcohol. She herself had partially escaped, going on to college in Michigan and California; but the pull of close family ties and a deep appreciation of southern culture lured her back each summer. Ward, author of Salvage the Bones (2011), lovingly profiles each of those she lost, including a brother, a cousin, and close friends, and their tragic ends as she weaves her family history and details her own difficulties of breaking away from home and the desperate need to do so. This is beautifully written homage, with a pathos and understanding that come from being a part of the culture described. --Vanessa Bush

Review

Top 10 Books of the Year

San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Oregonian, BookPage, New York Magazine

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of the Year

Time, Publishers Weekly

One of the Best Books of the Year

New York Times, Vogue, Daily Beast, NPR.org, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Slate, Cosmopolitan, Kansas City Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Times-Picayune, The Progressive, Kirkus Reviews, BuzzFeed, Complex.com, New Statesman, BookRiot, Shelf Awareness, Flavorpill, Times Literary Supplement "Eloquent... Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward's substantial talent." - Dwight Garner, The New York Times
 
"An important, and perhaps even essential, book." - Skip Horack, 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… With loving and vivid recollection, she returns flesh to the bones of statistics and slows her ghosts to live again… [It’s a] complicated and courageous testimony."—Tayari Jones, 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. What she gives back to her community is the hurtful honesty of the best literary art." —Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times
 
"A memoir about loss in rural Mississippi that burns with brilliance."—Harper’s Bazaar
 
"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
 
"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… It paints in unshowy colors her impoverished coming-of-age in the narrow strip of lowlands where Mississippi touches the Gulf of Mexico… [Ward is an] eloquent envoy from a forgotten part of America… [Men We Reaped is an] unvarnished and penetrating view into the infernal machinery of race hatred, pervasive mistrust, self-loathing, drugs, guns, and life’s bloody accidents." —Ben Dickinson, Elle
 
"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
 
"An important contemporary voice: a sensitive, lyrical narrator of difficult stories from the land of Faulkner and Welty." —The New York Times
 
"A lovely book about stuff so painful that Ward must have written it in a kind of fever… The final chapters are so moving you have to avert your eyes, both for the trauma and the tenderness." –Entertainment Weekly
 
"[A] riveting memoir of the ghosts that haunt her hometown in Mississippi… Ward has a soft touch, making these stories heartbreakingly real through vivid portrayal and dialogue." – Publishers Weekly
 
"A vivid and searing look at the legacy of racism in the U.S. by a writer with exceptional narrative gifts... In [Ward’s] hands, the cultural and personal are inseparable… Men We Reaped is a stunning look at racism, the people it marginalizes and how we are all implicated. It is moving, honest, compassionate and rigorous. It is loving and raw, full of grief and anger, personal and objective, shocking and inevitable. Ward stands alongside writers like Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou as a gifted chronicler of the crucible of an inequitable culture." – Shelf Awareness
 
"Ward closely examined the heartbreakingly relentless deaths of her young relatives and friends growing up in [her] small town… [She] lovingly profiles each of those she lost, including a brother, a cousin, and close friends, and their tragic ends as she weaves her family history and details her own difficulties of breaking away from home and the desperate need to do so. This is beautifully written homage, with a pathos and understanding that come from being a part of the culture described." - Booklist
 
"An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist Ward… A modern rejoinder to Black Like Me, Beloved and other stories of struggle and redemption—beautifully written, if sometimes too sad to bear." – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
"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 Pulitzer Prize

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the Univ. of Michigan and has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the Univ. of Mississippi. She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the Univ. of South Alabama. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, for which she won the 2011 National Book Award, and was a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, as well as a nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
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