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Men We Reaped: A Memoir Paperback – September 16, 2014
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"[A] torrential, sorrowing tribute to five young black men . . . Ward tells their stories with tenderness and reverence; they live again in these pages. . . . This work of great grief and beauty renders them individual and irreplaceable." - New York Times, 50 Best Memoirs
"Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward's substantial talent. It's an elegiac book that's rangy at the same time. She thinks back about her brother, and about her old dead friends, and about their nighttime adventures in cars. Then she declares, 'I don't ride with anyone like that anymore.'" - Dwight Garner, New York Times
"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 Pulitizer Prize
"An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist [Jesmyn] Ward... With more gumption than many, Ward battled not only the indifferent odds of rural poverty, but also the endless racism of her classmates... 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 is simply sui generis. I am reminded of Miles Davis' quote: 'Don't play what's there, play what's not here,' after reading her memoirMen We Reaped. This is one might virtuosic, bluesy hymn. Beautiful."- Oscar Hijuelos, author of THOUGHTS WITHOUT CIGARETTES
"Jesmyn Ward is an alchemist. She transmutes pain and loss into gold. Men We Reaped illustrates hardships but thankfully, vitally, it's just as clear about the humor, the intelligence, the tenderness, the brilliance of the folks in DeLisle, Mississippi. A community that's usually wiped off the literary map can't be erased when it's in a book this good." - Victor LaValle, author of THE DEVIL IN SILVER
"Men We Reaped is a fiercely felt meditation on the value of life that at once reminds us of its infinite worth and indicts us - as a society - for our selective, casual complicity in devaluing it. Ward's account of these losses is founded in a compelling emotional honesty, and graced with moments of stark poetry." - Peter Ho Davies, author of THE WELSH GIRL
"Jesmyn Ward returns to the world of her first two books, but here in the mode of non-fiction. A clear-eyed witness to the harrowing stories of 'men we reaped,' she quickens the dead and brings them, vividly alive again. An eloquent, grief-steeped account." - Nicholas Delbanco, author of LASTINGNESS: The Art of Old Age
"Jesmyn Ward's memoir is a miracle. In it, she writes with such clarity and beauty that her discoveries and revelations could very well change the way her readers understand the world. She also makes the unbearable nearly bearable with her poetic prose and her life-affirming passion. This is fierce, brave exploration, but it is also art - timeless, universal, and unrelentingly inspired." - Laura Kasischke, author of THE RAISING
"This is a beautifully written homage, with a pathos and understanding that come from being a part of the culture described." - Booklist
"Jesmyn Ward's heart-wrenching new memoir, Men We Reaped, is a brilliant book about beauty and death. The beauty is in the bodies and the voices of the young men she grew up with in the towns of coastal Mississippi, where a kind of de facto segregation persists." - LA Times
"Ward has a soft touch, making these stories heartbreakingly real through vivid portrayal and dialogue." - Publishers Weekly
Winner of the National Book Award, Winner of the ALA Alex Award, Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Literary Award, Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. - Salvage the Bones
"The novel's hugeness of heart and fierceness of family grip and hold on like [a] pit bull." - O, the Oprah Magazine on Salvage the Bones
"Searing.... Despite the brutal world it depicts, Salvage the Bones is a beautiful read. Ward's redolent prose conjures the magic and menace of the southern landscape." - Dallas Morning News
"Ward uses fearless, toughly lyrical language to convey this family's close-knit tenderness, the sheer bloody-minded difficulty of rural African American life...You owe it to yourself to read this book." - Library Journal on Salvage the Bones
"Salvage the Bones is an engaging novel that, on the surface, seems like a sorrowful tale of a broken household, yet holds beneath it the cherished story of family and loyalty." - The Root
"Men We Reaped is an important, and perhaps essential, book, in large part because this accomplished and deservedly lauded novelist somehow summoned the strength to bring us all home with her to the white-hot center of her pain, to the place where that wolf resides." - San Francisco Chronicle
"The good news, at least for readers, is that Ward tells a rotten fucking story fucking brilliantly. Her prose is conversational and unadorned. It's deceptively simple, until a moment of wrenching tragedy - or surprisingly often, one of astounding beauty - arrives with dangerous propulsion, knocking you off the foot that had seemed to care." - Willamette Weekly
"Ward creates nuanced and loving portraits of African-American men and boys...a must read." - The Dallas Morning News
"At a time when many claim America has moved into a post-racial era...Ward uses her family history to reach a personal, yet universal, understanding of the effects that race, class, and gender have had on her life, her community, and her generation." - BUST
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I spent much of the tail end of this book weeping. For its sadness. For its depth. For the courage to face and write so many painful truths. For the beauty of her prose, the stark honesty in revealing so much of herself, her love and grief for those cut down so young. For the wisdom and strength of black women struggling to raise children under such conditions. For the human wreckage this nation permits. For this woman, rising up to memorialize searing and painful truths.
I cannot forget this book. As a writer Ms. Ward is the Hilary Mantel of Mississippi. Someone who has transformed her own personal pain into exquisite prose. Someone fearless in writing about emotions, deeply understanding of her characters, honest yet sympathetic in portraying things which might be unspeakable under most circumstances, but which in her hands become cathartic, almost religious, even when most terrible.
She is my new favorite writer. And I’m just sorry that at 73, there are only so many more of her future books I’ll live to read.
This book is so genuine, so unflinching in the telling of her story, it can't help but touch the reader. She opens a door that has remained closed to most of us (the private lives of impoverished, black Mississippians living in rural areas and small town). It's through testaments such as this one, that we can recognize ourselves in others, see how we share common human experiences no matter our backgrounds or origins and learn how to bridge the wide waters that have separated us.
I'd already read Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing before this book, and I can see the shape of these books in her own experiences growing up. I strongly recommend this book and the two I just mentioned.
I sympathize about her beginnings and race relations but she is one tough cookie who allowed herself to rise above all the pitfalls in her life. It was truly sad to read about some one who was not only unfortunate with many situations but this family was so dysfunctional and extremely poor. The odds were stacked against her but she found a way to rise above it all. From the title, she was not present during any of the deaths of the men mentioned in the book and had to rely on others to tell the story which is still in some cases questionable
I appears that she continue to ramble on about childhood nonsense that bored me to tears. I somewhat thought that her style was a tad folklore but nevertheless, it was not my cup of tea. I have purchased other books by her and I certainly hopes the writing improves or I will not add her to my best author list.
Top international reviews
If I have a quibble it's that I wasn't always 100% convinced by the broadening of the story. Of course there are socio-economic links between the five men who died and whose stories are told her. The suffocating poverty and racism is undeniable, but I wasn't always comfortable with the juxtaposition of deaths in road accidents with gang violence, drug overdose and suicidal depression. It's a fine work, nevertheless.